The Andes

Peru: anti-mine protesters score victory

Peru’s Ministry of Energy & Mines (MINEM) officially suspended the license of the giant copper mine planned for Tia Maria, in the agricultural Tambo Valley of Arequipa region. The project had been the focus of years of protest mobilizations by local residents, and a new general strike had been declared after MINEM finally issued a construction permit to the project’s developer, Southern Copper Corporation, in July. In revoking the permit, MINEM implicitly invoked the protests, saying the “spaces for dialogue had not been generated” before the license was granted. (Photo: Diario Uno)

North America

Kentucky: unpaid miners block rail line

For over a week now, some 100 laid-off miners and their families have occupied a railroad track in Kentucky’s Harlan County, blocking a train loaded with coal that the workers dug out of the earth but never got paid for. The miners want their jobs back, if possible—but first of all, they want their wages for the work they already did. Blackjewel LLC abruptly shut down all its mines and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Partway through a shift, workers were told the bad news and sent home. The miners never got their last paycheck. And their second-to-last paycheck, already deposited, disappeared from their bank accounts. The miners also never received any paper notice of their layoff, which proved a bureaucratic obstacle when they filed for unemployment. Another major Kentucky coal producer, Cambrian Coal LLC, also plans to sell off its assets in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case that could impact hundreds of coal miners in Eastern Kentucky. (Photo: Megan Roark-Halcomb via Labor Notes)

The Amazon

Brazil: garimpeiros kill indigenous leader

Brazilian authorities are investigating the murder of an indigenous leader in the northern state of Amapá, in the Amazon region, where violence has escalated since a group of some 50 heavily armed men—believed to be garimpeiros, or outlaw gold-miners—reportedly invaded the Wajãpi indigenous reserve. Indigenous chief Emyra Wajãpi was found stabbed to death close to the village where he lived, according to the Council of Wajãpi Villages (APINA). Three days later, the group of armed men appeared in the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, forcing them to flee, according to APINA. Invasion of indigenous territories by ostensibly illegal mining outfits has escalated dramatically under current Presdent Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo of Wajãpi indigenous people via Mongabay)

The Amazon

Brazil: Yanomami lands overrun by illegal miners

Thousands of illegal gold-miners (garimpeiros) have invaded Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves, covering 96,650 square kilometers of rainforest in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, near the border with Venezuela. An incursion of this scale has not occurred for a generation, bringing back memories among Yanomami elders of the terrible period in the late 1980s, when some 40,000 garimpeiros moved onto their lands and about a fifth of the indigenous population died in just seven years due to violence, malaria, malnutrition, mercury poisoning and other causes. (Photo via Mongabay)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

The Amazon

Brazil high court ruling sparks indigenous protest

At their annual protest encampment in Brasilia, some 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil marching on the Supreme Court building to oppose a recent ruling that could negatively impact demarcation of indigenous territory. The case concerned Provisional Measure 870, signed by President Jair Bolsonaro on his first day in office, shifting responsibility for indigenous reserve demarcations from FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Agriculture Ministry. MP 870 was challenged as unconstitutional, but Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge—although he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with demarcation in future, further legal action could go forward at that time. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to open indigenous reserves to mining and agribusiness. The Free Land Encampment has been held in Brasilia every year since 2017. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon

‘Historic’ win against illegal mining in Peru

The Supreior Court of Justice for Peru's rainforest region of Madre de Dios upheld a lower court ruling that nullified mining concessions as well as the titling of agricultural properties and granting of water rights to third parties on the territory of the indigenous community of Tres Islas, without prior consultation with that community. The regional government of Madre de Dios is ordered to comply with the ruling, as is the National Water Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. The National Police are called upon to enforce the ruling if necessary. Peru's International Institute of Law and Society, which represented Tres Islas in the case, hailed the ruling as "historic." (Photo: La Mula)

The Andes

Máxima Acuña case against Newmont Mining remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia revived the case by Máxima Acuña Atalaya de Chaupe and her family against the US-based Newmont Mining Company. The family of subsistence farmers from Peru's Cajamarca region sued Newmont in the United States for abuse at the hands of the company's security forces. A lower court had dismissed the case, saying it should be heard in Peru. The Appeals Court reversed that decision, citing Newmont's corruption of local courts there. The suit, Acuna-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp, seeks to stop a pattern of harassment and physical abuse that the Chaupe family say they have suffered at the hands of Newmont personnel, which the family believes is aimed at usurpation of their plot of land at Tragadero Grande. (Photo: EarthRights International)

The Amazon

Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining

For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have sought access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. Finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. While Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy, Admiral Bento Albuquerque, announced plans to permit mining on indigenous reserves—without the consent of the inhabitants. Speaking at the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a major event in the mining world that attracts tens of thousands of attendees, Albuquerque said that Brazil’s indigenous people would be given a voice but not a veto in the matter. The opening of indigenous ancestral territories to mining, he predicted, would "bring benefits to these communities and to the country." (Photo: Mongabay)

Oceania

Solomon Islands: ‘irreversible’ oil spill disaster

The Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Rick Hou is threatening to "blacklist" the companies involved in a 100-ton oil-spill near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "The impact on the marine life and the coral is already massive with much of it irreversible," he said. The bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago off Rennell Island, while loading bauxite ore in a cyclone. Because of the storm, it took salvage crews several days before they could reach the stricken craft. Compounding the damage, Indonesian-owned Bintan Mining, which chartered the vessel, continued to operate as the oil flowed into the sea, with other ships maneuvering around the wreckage, churning up the oil. Rennell Island, known locally as Mugaba, is home to some 1,840 people, who overwhelmingly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The World Heritage Site covers the world's largest coral atoll. (Photo via Radio Australia)

The Amazon

Peru: ‘Operation Mercury’ militarizes Amazon

Peru's central government is pouring troops into the rainforest region of Madre de Dios in an all-out effort against thousands of illegal gold-miners operating in remote areas. Under "Operation Mercury"—named for the mercury poisoning caused to local waters by the mining—three High Mobility Temporary Mixed Bases, manned by military and National Police personnel, are to be established within the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve. Cabinet officials were flown into the remote area to inaugurate the first base, dubbed "Alpha." Peru is the top gold producer in Latin America and the sixth worldwide, but experts estimate that up to 25% of annual gold production in the country comes from illegal mining. The Andean Amazon Monitoring Project estimates that gold mining has deforested more than 18,000 hectares of Madre de Dios in recent years. (Photo: Andina via Gestión)

The Andes

Bolivia next for Latin ‘regime change’ offensive?

US senators Ted Cruz, Bob Menéndez and Dick Durbin introduced a resolution calling on Bolivia's President Evo Morales not to stand for re-election this October. Cruz said Bolivia is going in a "very dangerous direction, aligning itself with illegal and illegitimate regimes, including that of [Nicolás] Maduro in Venezuela. It is important that all parties respect the constitution of Bolivia, which includes term limits." Bolivia saw a wave of strikes and protests after a December ruling by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal allowing Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term in the 2019 election. The resolution comes just as Bolivia has announced a new partnership with Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group to exploit the country's valuable and largely untapped lithium deposits. China has for years been seeking deals to exploit Bolivia's strategic lithium reserves, in what some see as a global design to establish a "stranglehold" on the planet's rare earth minerals. (Photo via NACLA)