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Indian tribe's 'Avatar' victory over UK mining giant

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Sumnima Udas, CNN
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India blocks mining giant's proposal
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Indian authorities reject company's proposal to mine in eastern state of Orissa
  • The site is viewed as sacred by the Dongria Kondh tribe
  • Vedanta Resources wanted to mine bauxite there
RELATED TOPICS
  • Orissa
  • India
  • James Cameron

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- It has been dubbed India's version of the Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar." And just like the movie, the indigenous group fighting to save its sacred homeland has won a major fight.

A plan by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to dig in the mineral-rich eastern state of Orissa has stalled.

Environment authorities on Tuesday rejected proposals to mine the mountain, saying any such activity in that area would jeopardize livelihoods of tribes.

"If mining is permitted on this site, it will not only be illegal, but it will also destroy one of the most sacred sites of the Kondh Primitive Tribal Groups," the Ministry of Environment and Forests said.

The multi-billion project has come under scrutiny as advocacy groups, such as Survival International and Amnesty International, likened the Dongria Kondh tribe to the Na'vi from James Cameron's film.

"This is the real Avatar," reads one of Survival International's campaign posters.

For years, the 8,000-person indigenous community has been fighting to defend the Niyamgiri Hills, which it considers sacred.

The Niyamgiri Hills contain some 72 million tons of bauxite, which Vedanta was planning to extract for its aluminum refinery located nearby.

Several calls to Vedanta were not returned.

Earlier this month the company announced that it had invested in Indian oil-gas company Cairn Energy in a deal worth $9.6 billion.

The ongoing dispute between the Dongria Kondh tribe and Vedanta Resources highlights a broader standoff between industry and local residents.

Earlier this month, the government put a "stop work" order on another major venture in Orissa -- a $12-billion steel plant proposed by South Korea's POSCO.

Analysts say these recent moves could signify a change in the Indian government's approach toward the broader issue of tribal rights versus development.