Ancestral lands common targets of mining corporations, displacing, impoverishing people, disintegrating socio-cultural life

mineAn international people’s conference on mining, held on July 30-August 1, 2015 at Quezon City, the Philippines, expressed serious concern over the increasing role of transnational corporations in the mining sector, leading to displacement of local peoples. As many as 115 organizations from 29 countries, including India, participated and signed a joint statement, titled “Our Resistance, Our Hope”. The participants from India were representatives from Mines Minerals & People, Adivasi Mahila Maha Sang, Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children, and Mayurbhanj Paramparik Krushak Sangathan. Text of the statement:   

We are representatives of mining-affected communities, people’s organizations and other concerned groups and individuals coming from 29 countries and 6 continents. We come from diverse cultures, faith perspectives, social contexts and political identities with distinct dreams, beliefs and expectations. We are bound together by our shared desire to work and struggle together for a future, free from the destructive effects of mining activities driven by the interests of large capital and greed for profit. A future that is free from the devastation that destructive mining brings to our planet and our peoples. 

We support the rights of peoples, communities, states and the public at large to say “no” to mining. The extractive mining industry is the ugly face of our current rapacious global material and energy consumption, which has reached the point where the self-regenerating capacity of the earth’s biosphere is seriously compromised.

We are increasingly aware of the current crisis in the global mining industry as demand for metals and minerals contracts and prices decline. We witness corporations seeking to claw back profits by retrenching labor, further shirking from their liabilities and accountabilities, and engaging in or turning a blind eye to human rights abuses that are being committed in defense of their investments.

We see extractive industries, transnational mining corporations (TNCs) and enterprises, as well as their local partners and business relations, increasingly applying pressure on national governments for even greater liberalization, more inequitable tax regimes, and increasingly regressive investor-state agreements, in order to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for profit. In collaboration with home and host governments, these TNCs and their business relations are becoming more reckless in their production processes, often violating safety standards for their workers, affected communities and the environment.

We have listened to stories from Asia, the West Pacific, Latin America, Europe, Africa and North America about the destructive impacts of large-scale metallic and non-metallic mining on the lives of people living in mining affected areas, as well as the adverse impacts on national economies, resource bases and the ecology of countries and regions.

We have been witnesses and victims of the destructive effects of large-scale mining on our forests, rivers, lakes, seas, air and on our biodiversity (especially on small islands). We have seen once fruitful agricultural lands transformed into wastelands, and the people dependent on the once productive capacity of the land driven into marginal livelihoods and precarious existence. These mining activities have brought serious health hazards into our communities and exploited the health and labor of mine workers. Human rights violations – especially among indigenous peoples, peasants, fisher folks, disabled people, women and children – are rampant where these companies operate, most often perpetrated and backed by security forces of the host states.

We have heard the stories of women human rights defenders facing repression and gender violence because of the leadership roles they are taking in defending their land, territories and resources. This repression includes cases of extrajudicial killings, criminalization, stigmatization and violation of the principle of ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’.

Indigenous peoples have long been paying the price of ‘development’. Ancestral lands are the most common targets of mining corporations which results in displacement, impoverishment, loss of social and cultural integrity, militarization, killings and other human rights violations. Companies employ deceptive tactics to enter indigenous peoples’ territories without consent and proceed with the destruction of their land and livelihood.

We also engaged in profound conversations – sharing each other’s experiences of resistance and struggle – gaining lessons from victories, as well as defeats – in order to move forward and guarantee a better world for future generations. These insights and conversations have inspired us to remain committed and steadfast in our resolve to stop the further onslaught of imperialist mining plunder and greed against the people and the environment.

Our coming together has brought us hope. Hope that in working separately in our own particular contexts and countries, and together through coordinated international actions and solidarity, our collective resistance for the defense of rights, the environment and a common future, will bring forth  triumph for people over profit, nature over neo-liberal mining policies, and social justice over death and destruction.

We therefore call on each other, and all those committed to justice, to strengthen the struggle, widen and coordinate solidarity actions, and conduct and participate in a global campaign to defend and assert peoples’ rights and their rights to land and resources.

To this end we will

  • strive to connect and reach out to networks and start mapping existing initiatives on mining-related campaigns;
  • recognize that women are continuing to organize and mobilize their communities, and other sectors, to resist the onslaught of these extractive industries. They are challenging government policies through direct action, protest demonstrations, and all forms of resistance. They are also creating visions of genuine peoples’ development that is based on gender equality, environmental sustainability and social justice, and working towards making these a reality;
  • demand that recognition and respect be given to indigenous peoples’ rights to land, life and resources. Indigenous peoples believe that their land is their life; and along with the plunder of their land and territories comes the demise of their communities;
  • commit to providing resources and forming an active network of people who can assist in doing research on the corporate and financial aspects of mining activities, including their adverse political and social consequences. We will also support the development of global mechanisms that communities and activists can use to hold governments and corporations accountable;
  • unite to protect and recruit more human rights defenders;
  • work to pursue international remedies and engage international mechanisms to stop industrial mining plunder and pursue and coordinate legal suits and actions in support of people’s struggles;
  • build strong linkages among scientists and affected communities, such as farmers, fisher folk, indigenous peoples and others, in order to expose the destructive effects of mining on the health of people and the environment, and use such technical collaborations to strengthen the campaign and advocacy against large-scale destructive mining.
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