How your campaigning helped stop a Vedanta mine in Orissa, India
Indigenous people in Orissa, India, have blocked plans by UK-based Vedanta resources to open a mine in their sacred Nyamgiri Hills. Peter Frankental, our Business and Human Rights campaigner, reflects
When in 2008 we began drawing attention to the human rights impacts of Vedanta's refinery and proposed mine in Orissa, this seemed like a lost cause. Rarely has the Indian Government refused mining licences to a project so far advanced.
While there seemed little to shake the company's complacency, Vedanta did not reckon on the strength of the opposition. The affected communities in Orissa linked up with organisations in India and with international NGOs to create a formidable force in defence of their rights.
What we did
Our research and activism made a vital contribution in bringing about change.
Our campaigners played a key role in raising awareness of the situation on the ground in Orissa. Their 2010 protest outside Vedanta's head office in London wearing aluminium foil masks featured in the Financial Times. Their presence at successive Vedanta AGMs raised the stakes for the company and created some allies amongst investors.
Your letters to the Government of India helped create pressure that forced the Ministry of Environment and Forests to do a U-turn. The Ministry not only refused Vedanta a license to mine the sacred Niyamgiri Hills, but also imposed 70 preconditions for expansion of the company's nearby refinery, which effectively scuppered their plans.
The threat to the Dongria Kondh's existence was finally lifted when India's Supreme Court ruled in April 2013 that the Dongria Kondh would be able to decide on whether the company's mining plans would go ahead.
A triumph of hope
All 12 villages empowered to vote overwhelmingly rejected the proposed mining project in meetings held during July and August.
This was not only a humiliating defeat for a FTSE-100 company, but a triumph of hope over adversity.
Above all, it demonstrates that there are conditions under which corporate power can be defeated by activism when human rights are at stake.
The fact that such victories are rare is all the more reason to celebrate them when they occur and to apply the lessons learned to future campaigns.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.