“There is no improvement in the quality of life in countries with mining.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Mining-affected communities, environment and human rights defenders, scientists, church workers, and other progressives are looking towards a stronger, wider international solidarity that will confront mining transnational corporations (TNCs) around the world.
Delegates to the International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM) said the gathering paves the way to close ranks and face common “monsters”: the mining TNCs, which have caused human rights violations, environmental degradation, loss of lives, homes and livelihood in mining disasters, in exchange for corporate profit.
“Companies use the same method all over the world to prevent us from acting. We may unite, not through the laws, but through struggles. International solidarity is the most effective force against mining companies. What we need is to unify the resistance of the people,” said Selcuk Kozagacli, chairperson of the Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD-Turkey), at the IPCM press conference on July 31.
Among efforts discussed at the IPCM are “coordinated campaigns” against mining liberalization, and against specific TNCs, such as OceanaGold, Adani, Glencore, Rio Tinto, Revanta, and Barrick Gold.
“The Philippines, Canada, Australia and El Salvador will come out with coordinated campaigns to kick OceanaGold out of their respective countries,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), told the media.
He said that the Philippine and Indonesian groups will also work together in a campaign to protect the Coral Triangle, which includes the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro, and the Bangka island in Sumatra, Indonesia which is being threatened by Chinese mining.
The IPCM also discussed efforts to make mining TNCs accountable before international bodies and tribunals. Bautista said groups from the Philippines, Colombia and Peru will be filing a case against Glencore corporation before the International People’s Tribunal to be held in London in March 2016.
He said the IPCM “will advocate for a treaty that will give rights to people and sue private corporations and hold them accountable for violations and crimes.” Bautista said they would also work for the formation of a commission or a special rapporteur at the United Nations that will cover rights against environmental destruction by mining, fuel and fossil gas projects.
Kozagacli said the groups could collaborate to brings cases of “crimes against humanity” committed by mining companies. “To pressure and improve local and national laws to reach international standards, is the main framework of our legal efforts,” he said.
“We must jointly consider the victims of mining disasters in the Philippines and Turkey, Semirara and Soma,” Kozagacli said, adding that there will be united efforts to make mining corporations pay for disasters they caused, such as the DMCI which owns the coal mine in Semirara, Antique.
The Turkish laywer is the legal counsel for the victims in the Soma Coal mine fire accident in 2014, which killed 301 workers.
Kozagacli said the mining disasters are more like “crimes,” not accidents, caused by “privatization, lack of control, safety negligence, and disrespect to workers’ lives” He said that in Turkey, mining disaster victims “are considered as goods to be purchased,” as companies calculate the cost of potential deaths in possible disasters every 10 years.
Geophysicist Dr. Mark Muller, a member of the London Mining Network, said the IPCM served as venue for scientists who are prepared to work with communities to discuss ways to assist in making mining companies accountable for causing environmental destruction. He said they are eyeing the formation of a “global network of people’s scientists” that will provide technical information to communities to help them assess environmental impact of mining, to possibly support cases against companies.
Giving voice to communities
“There is no improvement in the quality of life in countries with mining,” said Gabriel Sheanopa Manyangadze, director of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and board member of the Economic Justice Network.
Manyangadze lamented that minerals extracted by European mining companies in Africa were not used to develop the industries within the continent, but rather those in Europe – a common predicament for other backward countries whose resources are plundered by mining TNCs.
He said African groups are preparing for an alternative mining conference to take place in Cape Town in 2016.
The delegates said the conference helps strengthen the different groups, as they continue to organize in communities, expand network, and campaign against large-scale destructive mining.
“This conference gives space to strengthen networks against monsters,” said Maria Antonia Recinos, a community journalist of Radio Victoria and member of Ades, from Sta. Marta in El Salvador.
“This single voice will be a tool for us, to demand enterprises and states in international tribunals…to stop the situation now where people are paying for damages caused by companies. This kind of space gives strength and ratifies our fight for justice,” said Recinos.
In one of the workshop groups, the IPCM also highlighted successful struggles in pushing back mining TNCs. In Southern Mindanao, Anglo-Swiss company Glencore recently sold all its shares and withdrew from the Tampakan copper-gold project after its 14 years of exploration had faced fierce resistance from indigenous B’laans and other groups.
“Our land, our minerals our rights,” a workshop group stressed.