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The people, the faces, the stories – 50 years of defending rights

You won’t mine us out of existence

Amnesty International UK activists demonstrating outside Vedanta Resources’ offices in London, February 2010.

© Amnesty International


“After years of struggle and visits by committees our voice has finally reached Delhi.”

A Dongria Kondh community leader, 2010

   

Local people in one of India’s poorest states campaigned alongside Amnesty International to stop a controversial mining project in its tracks.

  • A mining project in India threatened Indigenous people’s rights.
  • Together, we won a landmark victory that will protect their lands and livelihoods.

In August 2010, the Indian government rejected plans for a new mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills in eastern India. This followed years of campaigning by local Indigenous people, who felt that the project threatened their very existence. Amnesty International played a crucial role in the campaign’s success.

A damning indictment

Amnesty International joined the Indigenous people’s campaign against the project in 2008. We published a damning report, Don’t Mine Us Out Of Existence, in early 2010. It documented human rights abuses and legal violations.

Six months later, the Indian government came to similar conclusions and decided to axe the mine. In October 2010 it also quashed plans for a six-fold expansion of an alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, at the base of the hills. The refinery has been linked to water and air pollution and has blighted the lives of local communities.

The Indian government found that the proposed bauxite mining project had already broken forest and environmental laws and would lead to more abuses. The refinery expansion plans were found to be illegal.

The ruling was a blow to the companies involved in the mining project – a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation.

Several investors have pulled out of Vedanta because of what was happening in Orissa. In 2007, the Norwegian Pension Fund withdrew its US$15.6m share in the company on human rights grounds after receiving information from several organizations, including Amnesty International. In February 2010, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Church of England withdrew their investments from Vedanta.

A landmark victory

We worked with the Dongria Kondh communities to challenge the environmental clearance granted for the bauxite mine. More than 30,000 of our members wrote to the Indian authorities while we engaged in talks with Vedanta Resources.

We also staged protests outside Vedanta’s London offices during the company’s annual general meeting, alongside other non-governmental organizations. Together, we managed to stall the mining and refinery expansion plans for several months before the final decision to stop it was made.

For the Indiginous people affected by the planned projects, this was a landmark victory. A Dongria Kondh community leader told Amnesty International: “After years of struggle and visits by committees our voice has finally reached Delhi.”

Links

Read the full Don’t Mine Us Out Of Existence report here: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/001/2010/en/0a81a1bc-f50c-4426-9505-7fde6b3382ed/asa200012010en.pdf

For over 50 years we have been fighting for freedom of expression. The world has changed, but violence and imprisonment are still used to silence people who defend human rights and criticize the powerful. By calling on millions of activists and supporters worldwide, we can jam the fax machines of governments and send them a message they can’t ignore. Speak out against repression – deliver a message directly into the hands of those in power.
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