MAC: Mines and Communities

Global extractives terrorism exposed in new report

Published by MAC on 2017-07-15
Source: Statement, Guardian (2017-07-14)

Mining-related killings ranked as top crime

Environmental defenders -  women and men pledged to resist the theft of their land and other natural resources - were attacked and killed in unprecedented numbers during 2016.

This shocking truth was revealed last week in a new report by London-based Global Witness, drawing on data from across the world, much of which has also been featured on the MAC website.

According to Global Witness, almost 40% of those murdered were indigenous.

Mining is at the root of more such killings (at least 33) than any other sector, with Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American specifically singled out as companies benefitting from state complicity in oppression.

The Phillippines, Colombia and India are cited as three countries where "voracious" appetite for minerals has wreaked even more violence than it did before.

To read the full Global Witness report, please go to: https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-earth/

Worst year ever for environmental and land rights activists: at least 200 killed in 2016 as crisis spreads across globe

Global Witness press release

14 July 2017

Killings of those protesting land grabs in one-third more countries than 2015

For interviews with activists and field visits, please contact Alice Harrison (aharrison[at]globalwitness.org +447841 338792). High-quality imagery and video testimony from India, Colombia and Nicaragua can be found at: http://bit.ly/2sEQ1aN

Nearly four people were murdered every week in 2016 whilst protecting their land, forests and rivers from mining, logging and agricultural companies, a new report from Global Witness reveals today.

At least 200 people were killed in 2016, more than twice the number of journalists (79). The trend is both growing (up from 185 in 2015) and spreading, with murders reported in 24 countries compared to 16 in 2015.

The report documents a threefold increase in India, for example, as police brutality and state suppression of activist worsens. Latin America remains the worst affected region, home to 60% of murders.

Severe limits on available information mean the global total is likely far higher. Murder is the sharp end of a range of tactics used to silence defenders, including death threats, arrests, sexual assault, abductions and aggressive legal attacks.

“They threaten you so you will shut up. I can’t shut up. I can’t stay silent faced with all that is happening to my people. We are fighting for our lands, for our water, for our lives,” Jakeline Romero told Global Witness.

Jakeline is a Colombian indigenous leader who has faced years of threats and intimidation for speaking out against the devastating impacts of El Cerrejón, Latin America’s largest open-pit mine. Owned by London-listed companies Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo-American, the project has been blamed for water shortages and mass displacement.i The local operator has denied causing water shortages and condemned threats suffered by activists.

“These reports tell a very grim story. The battle to protect the planet is rapidly intensifying and the cost can be counted in human lives. More people in more countries are being left with no option but to take a stand against the theft of their land or the trashing of their environment. Too often they are brutally silenced by political and business elites, while the investors that bankroll them do nothing,” said Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather.

Almost 40% of those murdered were indigenous, as land they’ve inhabited for generations is stolen by companies, landowners or state actors. Projects are typically imposed on communities without their free, prior and informed consent, backed up by force: police and soldiers are suspected perpetrators in at least 43 murders. Protest is often the only option left to communities exercising their right to have a say about the use of their land and natural resources, putting them on a collision course with those seeking profit at any cost.
Key findings from the report include:

The report also notes the increasing criminalisation of these activists right across the world, including in the US. They are often painted as criminals, facing trumped-up criminal charges and aggressive civil cases brought by governments and companies seeking to silence them.

“States are breaking their own laws and failing their citizens in the worst possible way. Brave activists are being murdered, attacked and criminalised by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Governments, companies and investors have a duty to guarantee that communities are consulted about the projects that affect them, that activists are protected from violence, and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” said Ben Leather.

For interviews and briefings in English, Spanish and French, and other information please contact:
* Ben Leather +44 (0)7841 337 034 bleather@globalwitness.org
* Billy Kyte +44 (0)7703 671 308 bkyte@globalwitness.org
ENDS

i) See Aljazeera (10 February 2016), ‘Life by Latin America's largest open-pit coal mine’. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/life-latin-america-largest-open-pit-coal-160201114829811.html; El Heraldo (24 July 2014), ‘Indígenas denuncian que hay 18.200 afectados por sequía en La Guajira’. Available at: https://www.elheraldo.co/la-guajira/indigenas-denuncian-que-hay-18200-afectados-por-sequia-en-la-guajira-160446 and joint written statement CETIM and AAJ (11 November 2007) ‘Human rights violations committed by transnational corporations in Colombia’.
Available at: http://www.cetim.ch/human-rights-violations-committed-by-transnational-corporations-incolombia/


Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals

Activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders are dying violently at the rate of about four a week, with a growing sense around the world that ‘anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions’

Jonathan Watts and John Vidal

Guardian

14 July 2017

Last year was the most perilous ever for people defending their community’s land, natural resources or wildlife, with new research showing that environmental defenders are being killed at the rate of almost four a week across the world.

Two hundred environmental activists, wildlife rangers and indigenous leaders trying to protect their land were killed in 2016, according to the watchdog group Global Witness – more than double the number killed five years ago.

And the frequency of killings is only increasing as 2017 ticks by, according to data provided exclusively to the Guardian, with 98 killings identified in the first five months of this year.

John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said: “Human rights are being jettisoned as a culture of impunity is developing.

“There is now an overwhelming incentive to wreck the environment for economic reasons. The people most at risk are people who are already marginalised and excluded from politics and judicial redress, and are dependent on the environment. The countries do not respect the rule of law. Everywhere in the world, defenders are facing threats.

“There is an epidemic now, a culture of impunity, a sense that anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions, eliminate anyone who stands in the way. It [comes from] mining, agribusiness, illegal logging and dam building.”

Mexican indigenous leader and opponent of illegal logging Isidro Baldenegro López was killed in January.

In May, farmers in Brazil’s Maranhão state attacked an indigenous settlement, hacking with machetes at the hands of their victims in another land conflict that left more than a dozen in hospital. There have also been killings of environmental defenders and attacks on others in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and many other countries since the new year.

Most environmental defenders die in remote forests or villages affected by mining, dams, illegal logging, and agribusiness. Many of the killers are reportedly hired by corporations or state forces. Very few are ever arrested or identified.

This is why the Guardian is today launching a project, in collaboration with Global Witness, to attempt to record the deaths of everyone who dies over the next year in defence of the environment. We will be reporting from the world’s last wildernesses, as well as from the most industrialised countries on the planet, on the work of environmental defenders and the assaults upon them.

Billy Kyte, campaign leader on this issue at Global Witness, said that the killings that make the list are just the tip of an epidemic of violence.

“Communities that take a stand against environmental destruction are now in the firing line of companies’ private security guards, state forces and contract killers,” he said. “For every land and environmental defender who is killed, many more are threatened with death, eviction and destruction of their resources.

“These are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a systematic assault on remote and indigenous communities by state and corporate actors.”

Around the world, the number and intensity of environmental conflicts is growing, say researchers. An EU-funded atlas of environmental conflict academics at 23 universities has identified more than 2,000, ranging over water, land, pollution, evictions and mining.

“These are just the reported ones. There could be three times as many. There is much more violence now,” said Cass business school researcher Bobby Banerjee who has studied resistance to global development projects for 15 years.

“The conflicts are happening worldwide now because of globalisation. Capitalism is violent and global corporations are looking to poor countries for access to land and resources. Poor countries are more corruptible and have weaker law enforcement. Companies and governments now work together to kill people,” he said.

The 2016 Global Witness data shows that the industries at the heart of conflict were mining and oil, which were linked to 33 killings. Logging was in second place worldwide – with 23 deaths, up from 15 the previous year – followed by agriculture. That ranking could change. In the first five months of this year, the most striking trend is that for the first time agribusiness is rivalling mining as the deadliest sector, with 22 deaths worldwide – just one short of the total for the whole of last year.

The situation in Colombia in particular has gone from bad to worse in 2017. Brazil and the Philippines are also on course to hit new highs and indigenous groups continue to suffer disproportionately.

In terms of country rankings, in 2016 Brazil was once again the deadliest country in absolute terms with 49 killings, many of them in the Amazon rainforest. Timber production was implicated in 16 of those cases as the country’s deforestation rate surged by 29%.

More broadly, Latin America remained the most dangerous region for anyone wanting to protect rivers, forests, mountains and oceans, accounting for 60 of the global total of killings of environmental defenders even though it is home to less than a tenth of the world’s population.

With major economic interests at stake, state security forces were behind at least 43 killings globally – 33 by the police and 10 by the military – while private actors such as security guards and hitmen were responsible for 52 deaths.

The human cost of all this is terrible, said Laura Cáceres, one of the daughters of Honduran indigenous Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in 2016 after resisting the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque river.

Now in exile following death threats, Cáceres was recently in Oxford, in the UK, at a conference organised by Not1More (N1M), a group founded in 2016 in response to the violence facing environmental defenders.

“Berta Cáceres was a hindrance to the system,” she said. “[Honduras] is so battered; 30% of the land has been granted to transnational corporations. Companies are taking over ancestral territories. Forests are being privatised. My mother was passionate about her land, her roots, and she was horrified by the sinister and violent forms with which imperialism acts.”

Shortly after the conference the Guardian reported that another of Cáceres’ children, Berta Zúñiga had survived an armed attack soon after being named leader of the indigenous rights organisation formerly led by her mother.

Defenders frequently say they get no help from government, indeed corrupt governments are often implicated in the violence.

One west African anti-illegal logging activist, who asked not to named for fear of reprisals, said: “I am subject to pressure and threats. Millions [of dollars] are coming out of the forests and yet people have nothing – no schools, no health centres. Money is not going to the state but to private people. We are working without resources.

“My family has been threatened with death. We have had anonymous calls. I keep working with the help of my colleagues. We gave information to the UN, and asked for help. We got nowhere. We could be killed any moment.”

Wildlife defenders are also being increasingly targeted. More than 800 park rangers have been killed by commercial poachers and armed militia groups in the past 10 years, according to US group Global Conservation.

“Rangers face high levels of violence and are being [killed] at an alarming pace,” says Sean Willmore, president of the International Ranger Federation. “Almost 60% of those killed in 2016 were from Asia, with the majority from India.”

US writer Olesia Plokhii, who witnessed the murder of Cambodian illegal logging activist Chut Wutty in 2012, wrote in the Ecologist last month: “Wutty ran his own environmental organisation, had Western financial backers, the support of high-ranking Cambodian military officials, hundreds of local supporters who watched out for him and tools – multiple cell phones, a GPS tracker. He was still murdered.

“Much less organised and prepared defenders, people who might be forced unexpectedly into protecting their lands due to evictions or enormous infrastructure developments, are up against the same violence.”

The 2016 Global Witness report also notes that environmental protest is being clamped down on across the board – even in the richest countries – citing the case of the Standing Rock campaign against the construction of an oil pipeline under Lake Oahe in the US, and noting North Dakota legislators only narrowly defeated a bill that would have allowed drivers to run over and kill protesters without being jailed.

N1M co-founder Fran Lambrick told the Guardian: “Frontline environmental defenders are critical in fighting climate change, protecting our natural resources and upholding human rights and cultural identity. Yet they face violent reprisals, threats and criminalisation.”

“We are defenders of life,” said Laura Cáceres. “We are willing to do anything to allow life to continue. We don’t want to lose our lives and lose our mamas and families. But we assume that risk. If they can murder someone with high recognition like my mother Berta, then they can murder anyone.”


Philippines still among deadliest countries for environmental defenders for four years running

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

13 July 2017

With at least 28 land and environmental defenders killed in 2016, the Philippines remains to be the one of the deadliest countries in the world—and the deadliest in Asia—for environmental and land defenders. This was revealed in the report entitled ‘Defenders of the Earth’ released today by Global Witness, a London-based international Non-Government Organization (NGO).

“The Philippines is once against declared as among the deadliest countries in the world for environmental defenders for four years running. The trend is expected to worsen by 2017 with no fundamental change in the country’s environmental policies on one hand, and increasingly fascist police and military campaigns of President Rodrigo Duterte on the other. In just the first half of 2017, we have monitored at least 10 more cases of environment-related killings,” said Leon Dulce, Campaign Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the domestic partner organizations of Global Witness.

The report declared 2016 as the deadliest year for environment and land defenders with least 200 people killed across the globe, more than twice the number of journalists (79). This meant that almost four people were murdered every week last year. The trend is both growing (up from 185 in 2015) and spreading, with murders reported in 24 countries compared to 16 in 2015.

Mining was clearly the bloodiest trade, with at least 33 murders linked to the sector. Killings linked to logging companies increased from 15 to 23 in one year, while there were 23 killings connected to agribusiness projects. Almost 40% of those murdered were indigenous people. Police and soldiers are suspected perpetrators in at least 43 murders.

The Philippines has been among the highest number of killings since 2013, when Global Witness first launched the international report. The international NGO has recorded a total of 144 cases of killings in the country since 2002.

Killings under Duterte

Kalikasan PNE noted that the worsening impunity against Filipino environmental defenders under the Duterte administration were rooted in the fundamentally unchanged economic policies especially on extractive and destructive projects, enforced by its bloody counter-insurgency operations.

From June 2016 to the present, the environment group monitored at least 17 environment-related killings—the worst annual rate of killings over the past two administrations spanning 16 years.

“Mining-related killings accounted for 47 percent of the cases we monitored during the first year of the Duterte administration. Suspected state armed forces were accused of being involved in 41 percent of these cases, and 65 percent were perpetrated in the island of Mindanao where plunder and militarization is most widespread,” explained Dulce.

Among those hardest hit by the increasing militarization are the indigenous Lumad people of Mindanao. A striking case was the murder of Jimmy Saypan, a Lumad peasant leader from the province of Compostela Valley who was brutally assassinated back in October 10, 2016 by suspected military elements. Saypan was among the leaders of the Compostela Farmers Association, which led barricades and protest against the Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation, a company affiliated with the San Miguel Corporation.

According to Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather, “States are breaking their own laws and failing their citizens in the worst possible way. Brave activists are being murdered, attacked and criminalised by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Governments, companies and investors have a duty to guarantee that communities are consulted about the projects that affect them, that activists are protected from violence, and that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Dulce said “the Duterte administration must be held accountable for the worsening climate of impunity against Filipino environmental defenders. Military, paramilitary and police forces should immediately be pulled out of rural communities to stem the militarization, and a full-blown investigation into the country’s security and counter-insurgency programs should be launched.”

“Duterte’s continuing diatribes against mining oligarchs and other environmental plunderers should lead to the investigation of corporate interests that have benefited from militarization. If we do not hold the big mines and other extractive and destructive projects accountable over human rights atrocities, we will only perpetuate their business-as-usual operations,” ended Dulce.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net

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