Recognising Earth’s Laws, the Rights of Nature and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as No Go Areas to Mining
Across the world, communities, civil society, lawyers and policy makers are defending ecosystems and the ecological processes which sustain life for all, from threats of mining, extractive activities and development, and establishing ‘Yes to Life, No to Mining’ initiatives and precedents. There is growing recognition of these precedents and their principles, including respect for Earth’s laws and limits, the Rights of Nature, a duty of care to protect present and future generations of all species, as well as communities’ rights to self-determination, practice of customary governance systems, and the protection of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as No Go Areas for mining and development. Such precedents are also contributing to a way of thinking and practice known as Earth Jurisprudence which recognises the need to comply with the laws of our planet Earth in order to maintain the health and integrity of the wider Earth Community, which we humans are part of.
Below are some examples of precedents to inspire the development of Yes to Life, No to Mining precedents elsewhere, adapted to the local context. Please do share with us any other precedents!
- World Wilderness Congress (WILD 10) Resolutions 2013:
- 11: Recognising Networks of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and the Customary Governance Systems of their Custodian Communities as a Distinct Category of Protected Area
- 12: Building a Global Alliance to assert ‘No-Go Areas’ for Mining and other Extractive Industries and destructive activities threatening World Heritage Sites, and Protected Areas, including Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs) and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories
- United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Recommendations 2013 – asserts communities’ rights to self-determination and to say no to mining, extractive activities and development.
- IUCN Recommendation 147 2012 – recognises Sacred Natural Sites and support for custodian protocols and customary laws in the face of global threats and challenges
- IUCN Statement 2012 – recommends that mining should not take place in World Heritage Sites
- Proposed Declaration on Planetary Boundaries 2011 – calls for recognition and respect of the necessary Earth-system processes which sustain all life, and responsibility for safeguarding these processes from serious or irreversible damage.
- Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth 2010 – recognises Mother Earth as a Living Being with rights to life, exist, continue vital cycles and processes, and be restored, free from pollution. The UN General Assembly’s Resolution acknowledges recognition of the Rights of Nature. The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature proposes a permanent Tribunal for the Rights of Nature to hear such cases.
- Proposed United Nations Crime of Ecocide 2009 – would recognise ‘extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems’ as a 5th international Crime against Peace, and so potentially extractive activities.
- IUCN 4th World Conservation Congress Recommendation 4.136 2008– calls for protection of biodiversity, protected areas and indigenous people from mining activities
- IUCN 2nd World Conservation Congress Recommendation 2.82 2000 – calls for conservation of biological diversity of protected areas from the negative impacts of mining, stating that mining should not take place in IUCN category I–IV Protected Areas.
- Common African Customary Laws for the Protection of Sacred Natural Sites, developed by communities in the African Biodiversity Network, recognises these places as No Go Areas for mining and development, and their customary governance systems based on Earth’s Laws.
- Benin – Sacred Forest law – local communities and GRABE-Benin successfully lobbied for the 1st law in Africa to recognise sacred forests and sites as protected areas, and recognise the role of communities in governing and protecting these areas.
- Ethiopia – local communities and MELCA secured registration of sacred forests as an UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, where development is prohibited in the core zone, and also local government recognition of Sacred Natural Sites as No Go Areas for development.
- South Africa – a Clan in Venda obtained an interdict from the High Court to stop tourism development in a sacred waterfall and three Clans applied for registration through South African heritage law and recognition of their Sacred Natural Sites as No Go Areas for development and mining, and recognition of their customary governance systems, with support of the Mupo Foundation.
- Uganda – a local lawyer and NAPE are developing a proposal for the recognition of the Rights of a Sacred Lake and watershed, including the right not to be polluted from mining and development.
- Ghana – a national Coalition including CIKOD has petitioned the Ghanaian Government to halt the issuance of a licence and environmental permit to a mining company, alerting the undermining of Sacred Natural Sites, the rights of indigenous/local communities and of Mother Earth.
- ICE and others successfully lobbied for recognition in the Kenyan Constitution of community land including ancestral land and customary governance systems, and are calling for legal recognition of a sacred river as a No Go Area for development.
- The Endorois peoples’ secured recognition from the African Commission of the rights of indigenous peoples in Africa to ancestral lands and the requirement for Free Prior Informed Consent ‘according to the customs and traditions of the community’ prior to mining.
- Canada – the Tsilhqot’in Nation secured recognition from the Canadian Supreme Court of their Aboriginal title and collective rights to govern their traditional lands; and that without consent of the Aboriginal peoples, any proposed development cannot proceed, unless the strict test of justification has been met.
- United States – a community, supported bythe Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), took the State of Colorado and a mining company to court to recognise and enforce their Community Bill of Rights which bans fracking and recognises their right to local self-government and the rights of Nature.
- Colombia – indigenous peoples (Jaguars of the Yurupari) and Gaia Amazonas secured recognition of the River Pirá Paraná and their ecological knowledge system as part of the Nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, and inclusion on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
- Ecuador – first Constitution in the world to recognise the Rights of Nature, which has been implemented by a court case recognising rights of a river not to be destroyed by development.
- Bolivia – Law of the Rights of Mother Earth – recognises the rights of Mother Earth to exist and fulfil evolutionary processes, not to be contaminated or commercialised.
- Belize –indigenous communities and organisation SATIIM secured a Supreme Court ruling that the government’s decision to allow mining in ancestral territory and National Park had breached international human rights obligations, and been made without communities’ Free Prior Informed Consent. The communities reject the mining.
- Guatemala – Law Proposal on Sacred Sites 2012 – would prohibit and criminalise acts which damage or destroy Sacred Sites and the spirituality of indigenous peoples.
- India – tribal communities secured recognition from the Supreme Court of their religious rights to worship a sacred mountain, and right to be consulted prior to proposed mining. The communities and Indian government rejected a mining company’s plans to mine, thus recognising the sacred mountain as a No Go Area for mining.
- Manilla Declaration of the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples 2009 – calls for a moratorium on further extractive industry projects
- The 1995 Mining Act prohibits mining activities in certain areas including ancestral and indigenous community occupied areas, national parks, watershed and agricultural areas.
- The London Declaration 2008 – calls for a moratorium on new large-scale mining projects in green field areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
- Falkirk Community Charter – asserts community rights and responsibilities of ‘self-agency’ to protect ‘cultural heritage’, including ecosystems, from extractive activities, and recognition of cultural heritage in environmental impact assessments and planning decisions.
- European Citizens Initiative for the Rights of Nature – the ECI a participatory democracy mechanism within the EU proposes new environmental law extending civil rights to the natural world. Ecologist article provides overview and project summary is available here.
- Australia– A court fined a mining company for damaging and desecrating an aboriginal Sacred Site, stating the company had put profit over protection, resulting in the loss of the Site and nation’s heritage.