MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2002-05-15


Some of the strategies used by the mining companies to strip the people of their lands and violate their fundamental human rights:

· Divide and conquer: This is the primary mechanism used to set up persons from the same community in favor of the mining companies, and to weaken the possibility of social and organizational development of the affected community. This makes it easier for the mining company to penetrate lands occupied by the native people of the region.

· Win hearts and minds: As a way of opening doors, the mining companies come in to the communities that are susceptible to being displaced and offer aid projects, such as: individual employment, painting the school, setting up networks, vaccination campaigns, etc. All of this is done as a sort of social mortgage to be cashed in when the community starts to denounce abuses.

· Influence town opinion: Local, county and departmental media outlets are used for this via publicity contracts. They spin slanted information about these cases, and always hide the truth so that they can misinform the public. They paint ambiguities that lead to speculation and confusion in the media. Huge sums of money are invested in these programs, exceeding that spent on the so-called aidprojects.

· Make it look legal with law enforcement cooperation: They attempt to legitimize their abuses by working with the police and the military so that it appears legal when, in their rush to usurp the land of defenseless peoples, they violate human rights. They also have their own private security, trained to intimidate the population

· Get support from the authorities local, county, departmental and national: These governments turn over land and comply with company wishes. Events and meetings in honor of government officials are frequently held in the camps to cull their favor. Judges, magistrates, high ranking executives, the clergy, etc, always justify the actions of the mining company in the name of what they call progressand development. With the support of local governments small investments are made in the communities likely to be affected, so as to neutralize them.

· Take advantage of the lack of awareness among those who are not directly involved in the conflict: They use the media to neutralize the response of the general society that does not know about the conflict, and to sway public opinion in favor of their bad deeds. Always aim to control the media and public opinion and you can make it easy to violate the rights of the defenseless communities in the region.

· Ban claims filed through an attorney: The mining companies do not accept communities filing claims through an attorney, and persecute those who pursue the legal recourses offered by the constitution and the laws. They expect people to acquiesce to their decisions, calling those who accept negotiations without legal counsel good people, and those who seek legal counsel or advice to protect their fundamental rights as bad.

We sensible citizens with a social conscience believe that the social injustice that the Cerrejón project has created for the people of the region is ever more widely known and condemned. Many of their traditional allies no longer blindly believe the mining company. People in la Guajira should stop and think about why we have faced so many abuses. No mining project can justify so many violations, can just evict a hundred families from their homes and their land and leave them with no where to go and no right to stay together as a community and protect their family ties, as is happening in Tabaco and Tamaquitos. Other communities in the area, such as Patilla, Roche, Chancleta and Tamaquitos, are in an equally precarious situation, and will soon face the same fate as Tabaco.

[1] This indigenous community is currently in the midst of a battle with the multinationals and the government to avoid extermination.

[2] Hernán Martínez was ratified by the consortium made up of Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore.

[3] Manantial was the first community destroyed by Intercor using official violence and power.

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