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.
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.
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.
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.”
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