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Kavuthi-Vediyappan Hills, Tamil Nadu, India


In March 2005, the state-owned Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) entered into a joint venture with the Jindal groups’ Jindal Vijayanagar Steel Ltd. (JVSL) to form TIMCO (Tamil nadu Iron ore Mining Corporation ltd.). TIMCO was formed with the agenda of mining the approximately 75 Million tons of low grade (47%) of iron ore in the Kavuthi-Vediyappan hills near Tiruvannamalai, in Northern Tamil Nadu. The initial forest clearance applied for by TIMCO was for clearing 638 hectares of forest land in Kanjamalai Reserved Forest in Salem district, and 325 hectares in Kavuthimalai Reserved Forest in Tiruvannamalai district—potentially resulting in the felling of over 200,000 naturally grown trees in the dense forests.

The mining operations, if conducted, would have impacted close to 51 villages which have had a flourishing agricultural economy. The proposed mine would result in the destruction of 325 ha. of undisturbed Reserved Forest. The mining would also have had negative impacts on agriculture, water sources, trees and herbs, and local wildlife. The Kavuthimalai hills of Tiruvannamalairegion also hold religious significance for local villagers as well as thousands of devotees who take a 1km parikrama (a religious walk that involves circumambulating along the sacred mountain) every year around the Tiruvannamalai hills which are considered the abode of god in Tamil literature dating back to the 7th century. The proposed mine is located 8 kms away from the giri valam—the path that the devotees walk along the foothills of the holy mountain.

The protesting parties against iron ore mining in the hills ranged from local villagers, to NGOs, to politicians, and independent professionals. Several citizen groups were formed during the process of mobilization against the proposed mine, benefication and pelletisation plants. Forms of protest included protest rallies, signature campaigns, and awareness campaigns through the potentially impacted villages, and court cases against TIMCO.

In 2008, the regional ministry of forest and environment, after reviewing the case, proposed that the project not be granted approval. On 27th December 2008, a group of over 1000 protesting farmers gathered at the public hearing for the project. They emphasized the importance of perennial springs which serve as sources of water, and which have allowed the villagers to manage farming operations through the drought seasons. Focusing on multiple dimensions of significance that the mountains hold to the local villagers, one farmer from Andiyur village was quoted as stating, “One needs to know the significance of the hills and its role in shaping the lives of the farmers to understand our anger…Vediappan (after whom one of the hills is named) is our ‘kuladeivam’ (family deity)”.  Given the level of opposition, the Supreme Court of India, formulated a Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) which published its report in 2009. The CEC report strongly advised against allowing the project to start citing ecological degradation of the pristine dense forest, the presence of various springs that originate in the hill which supply water for agricultural needs, and generation of soil, water and air pollution which could have potentially negative impacts on the lives of locally residing villagers.

In April of 2014, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), one of the most significant political parties joined the cause of the protesters with DMK treasurer, M.K. Stalin stating at a protest rally that “they would not allow mining operations to begin since the project would “destroy water resources, farming, (and) environment”. In May of 2014, representatives of TIMCO came forward with a proposal to use 23 ha. of undisturbed Reserve Forest, instead of the initially proposed 325 ha. in Kavuthimalai hills. In response to this suggestion, a motorcycle protest rally through the villages which would be potentially affected by the mining operations, was organized by the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam. L. Alagesan—the joint secretary of the organization, stated that they would “not allow even a fistful of soil to be mined as the project would affect people living in the vicinity in a bad manner and also destroy several trees, affect wildlife, herbs and birds. It would affect biodiversity, environment and livelihood of people”.

In February of 2015, a massive forest fire erupted in the Kuvuthi-Vediyappan Hills—in the region which was allocated to the iron ore mine, benefication and pelletisation plant, which raged for more than two days and destroyed much of the forest cover. In April of 2015, following years of petitions and protests by citizens groups, and a case filed by Advocate S Ganeswaran, the Madras High Court denied permission for iron ore mining in the region. However, representatives from Jindal group, after the declaration of the verdict by the High Court, stated that the group would continue with its attempts to purse mining operations pending a final decision by the Supreme Court of India—the apex court of the country.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Kavuthi-Vediyappan Hills, Tamil Nadu, India
State or province:Tamil Nadu
Location of conflict:Tiruvannamalai
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The project aimed at the extraction of 1 million tons of iron ore per year. The total iron ore reserves in the region are estimated at 75 million tons of low grade (47%) ore at Kavuthimalai hills and 35 million tonnes at Vediappanmalai hills.

Project area:963
Level of Investment for the conflictive project592,751,600,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:300,000
Start of the conflict:29/03/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Tamil Nadu Iron ore Mining Corporation Ltd. (TIMCO) from India
Relevant government actors:Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (the then Leader of opposition in the Tamil Nadu state Government)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kanjamalai Padagap Iyyakam
Piyush Manush:
Nanadalala Seva Samithi Trust:
Kavuthi-Vediyappan Hills Protection Federation:
Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Fires
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Owing to social mobilization, and the involvement of multiple actors, the project has been in a suspended phase for over 11 years. The last verdict by the Madras High Court-the highest court at the state level, ruled against the initiation of mining operations. However, the final decision of whether to allow mining operations is still pending with the Supreme Court of India-the apex court in the country.

Sources & Materials

Kohli, Kanchi. India Together, 21st October, 2009. ‘A miner's shortcut to green clearance goes awry’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

Arunachala Grace. 23rd January, 2009. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

12. The Times of India, Chennai, 26th April, 2015, ‘Madras HC restraints PSUs from felling trees for mining project’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

BusinessLine, 17th April, 2008, 'TIMCO may start Rs. 650-cr iron ore mining project next year'

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 25th March, 2014, ‘Signature campaign against iron ore mining project planned’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 3rd April, 2014, ‘Signature campaign launched against mining project’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

Live Mint, Chennai, 18th August, 2009, ‘SC panel rejects TN-Jindal mining project’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 23rd February 2015, ‘Kavuthi-Vediyappan hills devastated by fire’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 28th February 2014, ‘Mining project proposal flayed in Tiruvannamalai’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

Lawyers Law, 27th April, 2015, ‘Three public sector undertakings restrained to move ahead with their mining projects: Madras High Court’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

The Hindu, Chennai, 26th April, 2015, 'TIDCO, TIMCO restrained from mining, cutting trees'. (last accessed 14th December, 2016)

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 12th April 2014, ‘DMK will not allow Kavuthi hill iron ore mining project: Stalin’ (last accessed December 14, 2016).

BusinessLine, Chennai, 28th February, ‘Jindals’ quest for iron ore in TN enters the final phase’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

The Hindu, Tiruvannamalai, 22nd July 2008, ‘Iron ore with 47% iron content available in Tiruvannamalai hills’. (last accessed December 14, 2016).

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Rowthiram Pazhagu (MINERAL MINING EPISODE) (10-05-2014) - Part 1

Meta information

Contributor:Arpita Bisht, TERI University,New Delhi, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2512



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