By Jørn Stave
On December 16 last year, armed police entered the village of Maikanch, where some two thousand adivasis were planning a road blockade against Norsk Hydro's mining project Utkal Alumina. The police opened fire and three adivasis were killed,whereas seven were seriously injured and almost fifty people received lighter injuries (see NorWatch 13/2000).
The judicial inquiry of the firing in Maikanch started in May. It has formerly been claimed that Utkal Alumina, together withlocal police and politicians, was responsible for the tragic incident. CEO of Utkal Alumina, Mr. Ola Lie has denied this. In an interview with NorWatch, he said that he knows who stood behind the massacre (see NorWatch 5/2001).
According to the local NGO Agragamee, the judicial inquiry was suspended and the judge P. K. Mishra transferred in early August.
The news about the delay is also confirmed by Norsk Hydro.
- We know that the inquiry is being delayed, but we do not have any direct comment to this fact, says public relations officer Thomas Knutzen of Hydro.
The inquiry was suspended before CEO Ola Lie had been questioned about his knowledge of the firing. It is neither known what information has been revealed so far, nor what caused the suspension.
The Indian Embassy cannot contribute to clearing up the confusion that surrounds the inquiry. No official comment has bee released by Indian authorities, and the Embassy claims they do not know the latest developments.
Recent news from Agragamee indicates that the judge is back in Orissa to continue the investigation and that the hearings will re-open soon. This has not been confirmed by other sources.
While the investigation into the Maikanch massacre is being delayed in India, the Utkal project is now also receiving attention from abroad. In the US, the Kashipur Support Group has recently launched a web site at http://www.cs.stanford.edu/~amitm/kashipur/main.htm, containing information about the planned project.
Also, the Canadian organisation MiningWatch is now directing its spotlights towards Utkal Alumina, which is partly owned by the Canadian company Alcan. MiningWatch has asked Alcan about its involvement in Utkal Alumina, but the company has not yet responded to this inquiry.
Facts: Utkal Alumina
Utkal Alumina International Ltd is owned 45% by Norsk Hydro, who also has appointed the CEO of UAIL. The other partners are Canadian Alcan and Indian Aluminium. Utkal Alumina hopes to be able to build a bauxite mine and an alumina refinery in Kashipur block, Rayagada district, Orissa. The project has two phases, and is in total estimated to cost about USD 1,8 billion. The local population, mainly tribal groups, has opposed the proposed project since the plans were publicly known. They will loose their land and fear that their water resources will dry up. Additionally, the mine itself will be an open pit in their sacred hill, Baphlimali, home of the Baphlimali goddess.
Norwatch Newsletter 8/01