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Alcan Workers Refuse to Smelt Alumina from Kashipur

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Issue: 28 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada, South Asia India, Kashipur Topics: Mining, labour, solidarity

April 17, 2005

Alcan Workers Refuse to Smelt Alumina from Kashipur

by Dru Oja Jay

Over ten thousand people would be displaced by a proposed mining operation in the Kashipur region of the Indian state of Orissa. Montréal-based Alcan Inc. is a key investor in the project.
Employees at two Canadian smelting operations run by Montréal-based Alcan Inc. have passed resolutions refusing to process aluminum from planned Alcan-financed mining operations in the Kashipur region of Orissa, a state in eastern India.

The resolutions were passed in locals in Kitimat, British Columbia and Arvida, Québec, both affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The resolutions were passed in solidarity with the popular resistance to mining in Kashipur. Thousands of people have demonstrated against mining in the region; three demonstrators were shot and killed by police in 2000. In 2001, ten thousand people gathered in Kashipur to proclaim "we are not afraid to die, we will not leave our land," in resistance to the mining projects. There have been recent reports of intimidation and "false arrests."

According to activists, the proposed mining project would displace tens of thousands of people and destroy self-sustaining Adivasi communities. The Adivasis are an indigenous people who live outside of the traditional Hindu social system.

Attention has also been called to the massive environmental impact of the mine and refinery, which would require burning an estimated 3000 tonnes of coal per day and and would cause the contamination of two streams on which local communities rely for water.

Under pressure from Norwegian solidarity groups, lead investor Norsk Hydro divested from the project in late 2001. Alcan acquired Norsk Hydro's 45 per cent stake; its former Indian subsidary, Indal, owns the remaining 55 per cent of the shares.

In 2003, Alcan't in India, a Montréal-based solidarity group "inspired by successes in Kashipur and Norway" was founded.

CAW members and solidarity activists at demonstrate outside of Alcan's April 28 shareholders' meeting. Two CAW locals representing workers employed by Alcan have endorsed the aims of Alcan't in India.
Elected representatives in 22 out of 24 of the affected villages in the region passed a resolution against the mining project in 2000. Alcan has claimed that 23 out the 24 have since supported the mine, but activists claim that they have "offered no evidence" to back up the claim.

An estimated 33 million people have been displaced by "development projects" in India since 1947--1.4 million in the state of Orissa. According to Alcan't in India, the primarily rural Adivasi communities account for eight per cent of India's population, and 40 per cent of its displaced.

According to the CAW, the locals "unconditionally endorse" the "sustainable agro-centric democratic development objectives" of the Adivasis and the activities of Alcan't in India, a Montréal-based solidarity group that is pushing Alcan to divest from its stake in the Kashipur project.

Alcan't in India is continuing to call on Alcan to "recognise the Kashipur peoples' title to the land and constitutional guarantee for self-determination," and to divest from the joint venture.

The group staged a demonstration at Alcan's annual shareholders meeting on April 28th in Montréal. A few dozen CAW members attended in a show of support.

» Alcan't in India

» Alcan, Inc.: Official Site

» CAW: CAW Stand in Solidarity with Anti-Mining Movement in India

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