Report from the Third International Women and Mining Conference in India

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

From October 1 to 9 MiningWatch's Catherine Coumans attended the Third International Women in Mining Conference in Visakhapatnam, Andra Pradesh, India. She made a brief presentation based on the research she has coordinated for MiningWatch Canada on women, mining and health in collaboration with Canadian women in West Labrador.

Catherine's presentation should appear soon on the web site of the Indian host organization mines, minerals & People, where more information on the conference and its papers can also be found and a final statement from the conference will soon be posted. MiningWatch provided help with coordination and facilitation of the conference.

The conference also offered an excellent opportunity to meet separately and discuss ongoing collaborative work on Canadian mining projects in the Asia Pacific region with regional partners from Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Burma, and, of course, India.

Urgent update on Alcan's Utkal project in India

Finally, a field trip organized as part of the conference took participants into tribal (adivasi) land in the mountains of Orissa state. Conference participants visited NALCO, Asia's largest existing bauxite mine and alumina refinery. Nearby, Canada's Alcan wants to mine and process bauxite into alumina at the proposed Utkal project. The mine would be located on tribal land in Kashipur in Orissa. The local tribal population has been strongly opposing this project for years. Three tribal villagers were shot to death by police on December 16, 2000. While in Orissa, Catherine met with tribal people and NGOs who expressed grave concern over Alcan's proposed project. MiningWatch is a member of Alcan't in India, a campaign linking opponents to Alcan's project from India, Norway and Canada. During press conferences Catherine expressed MiningWatch Canada's solidarity with the struggle of the people of Orissa who are fighting this project.

Right now, tensions are very high in the area and tribal villages and protesters have again been brutally attacked in recent weeks. (see the recent urgent action, public appeal, and Indymedia Kashipur Alert for more information). Major rallies took place December 16th (the anniversary of the 2000 police killings). Local tribal leaders and NGOs have put out an urgent request for foreign observers and journalists to go to Kashipur to act as witnesses.