Indian villagers in human chain protest at Vedanta

BHUBANESWAR, India, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Thousands of tribespeople in eastern India, some carrying bows and arrows, formed a human chain on Tuesday to protest against a bauxite mine planned by Vedanta Resources Plc


, police said.

The protest is the latest in several land disputes involving multinationals and it comes days after the London-listed company said it was ready to start mining bauxite in Orissa state.

Members of the indigenous Dongria Kondh tribe that has lived in the lush forests of Niyamgiri hills in eastern Orissa state for generations held hands to form a 17 km (10 miles) long human chain on Tuesday.

Those opposing the project said the mining will affect the lives of thousands of people and destroy local ecology.

"Hills are our mother, we will not allow the company to do mining," said Lingaraj Azad, a protest leader.

Holding placards that said "Vedanta Go back" and "Vedanta quit Niyamgiri", at least 10,000 protesters vowed to stop the company from mining in the hills.

Last August, India's Supreme Court allowed Vedanta to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines to feed an alumina refinery it has built in the area as part of an $800 million project.

Acquisitions of land by foreign and local companies have been controversial in several Indian states, with courts having to resolve disputes involving big projects, including South Korea's POSCO's proposed $12 billion steel plant, also in Orissa. (Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Alex Richardson)