On every inhabited continent, communities are defending land, water and life from unwanted mining operations, building the alternatives to extractivism and winning victories. Here we share some stories to inspire from 2017.
Popular consultations banning mining sweep Colombia
In a landmark popular consultation, on 26th March 2017 a resounding 98% of voters in the Colombian town of Cajamarca voted to ban ‘the world’s largest gold mine’, being built in their territory.
Cajamarca’s victory has inspired others. Since the start of 2017, nine other municipalities have banned extractive projects on their lands through popular consultations and fifty four others are planned across the nation despite opposition from parts of Colombia’s Federal Government.
Alliance of Solwara Warriors defend the deep sea
The Alliance of Solwara Warriors, made up of communities in the Bismarck and Solomon Seas, is leading efforts to stop Nautilus Minerals’ attempts to mine the deep sea. They are calling for a ban on seabed mining in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
Supported by international allies, their campaign has gathered pace and support this year, gaining headlines through a new legal case and support from the UN Development programme and the likes of British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
“It’s heartbreaking … that’s where life began, that we should be destroying these things [hydrothermal vents] is so deeply tragic, that humanity should just plow on with no regard for the consequences – because they don’t know what they are!” – Sir David Attenborough objects to experimental seabed mining, BBC News.
Reviving mining-scarred lands and waters in Finland
In the small Finnish village of Selkie, villagers and locally-based YLNM member the Snowchange Cooperative are working to revive their watershed and overcoming the devastating impacts of a local peat mine.
Selkie’s story shows how a small community can not only stop destructive mining, but also begin to restore the living ecosystems that sustain life on Earth and the knowledge that can enable us to live well within our planet’s limits.
Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc First Nation succeed in stopping the Ajax Mine
After a precedent-setting indigenous-led assessment, in March 2017 the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc First Nation decided not to withhold its Free Prior and Informed Consent from Polish mining company KGHM Ajax’s and its plans to mine gold and copper at Pípsell, a sacred area.
Thanks to years of resistance led by the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc, in December 2017 the Government of British Columbia rejected the Ajax Mine, honouring its commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
El Salvador bans metal mining
In early 2017, the small nation of El Salvador defeated Australian mining multinational OceanaGold’s efforts to sue the nation and pushed through a ban on all metal mining to protect threatened water sources and public health.
This major global precedent is in large part the result of over a decade of community advocacy against mining destruction in which rural Salvadorean women in particular have played a prominent role.
There have been other momentous victories, well-deserved awards and some surprising precedents in 2017. Here are just a few:
- Custodians convince African Commission to adopt new resolution protecting sacred lands and indigenous rights.
- DECOIN wins major UN Prize after decades resisting mining and building community alternatives in Ecuador.
- Peru’s Supreme Court upholds decision in favor of local farmer Máxima Acuña de Chaupe in fight to protect their land from proposed Conga gold mine.
- The people of Trun, Bulgaria, ban gold mining with 93% majority in local referendum.
- Apple announces its commitment to a ‘no-mining’ future.
Such victories often come at a great cost.
The Guardian and Global Witness have recorded the killings of 185 environmental defenders in 2017.
Our thoughts and solidarity go to the families and friends of those who lost their lives this year as they took a stand to protect land, water, livelihoods and the ecosystems we all rely upon.