MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2009-01-07

Members of the MAC Editorial Board have picked some articles, featured on our site over the past year, which they consider key to understanding developments - both positive and negative - over the past turbulent year.

"A starting point for analysis to come "

"The biggest news story for the year carried by MAC has to be the article analysing how the mining industry is being affected by that stinging tale of 2008, the credit crunch., That's the view of Andrew "Whit" Whitmore, who works with PIPlinks in the UK.

Whit goes on:

"The article starts by quoting Warren Buffett, and I am reminded of another of the sayings of the so-called Sage of Omaha - ‘You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out'.

Communities have been under pressure from the recent, supposedly endless 'super-cycle' of increasing projects by companies that will promise everything, but with little real track-record of providing anything meaningful. So the process of watching the naked swimmers run for cover has been illuminating. Few people have been willing, or able, to incisively comment on this rapidly unfolding situation - certainly not from the perspective of those on who land they seek to operate).

However this article, and the others posted on the unravelling of the super-cycle dream, is a starting point for more such analysis to come. Hopefully this article's call to action, and common sense, may mobilise more than mine-affected communities and their supporters. As Buffett also noted "Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks."

What the heck is going on? - Que esta pasando?

Posted on MAC, 27 October 2008

"Could this be the beginning of the end for large scale mining in Argentina?"

That's the question posed by MAC's Latin America editor, Luis Claps, with his selection of the year's highlight. "Possibly for the first time in Latin America, a top mining executive last year faced criminal charges for pollution," says Luis. "This was when an Argentinian federal appeals court upheld criminal charges against Julian Rooney, an Xstrata PLC executive. His company was accused of contamination caused by its Alumbrera copper and gold mine - the biggest mining venture in the country.

"The Bajo La Alumbrera mine, in Catamarca province, has come to symbolise the practice of neo-liberal mining codes, imposed on Argentina with support from the World Bank. As MAC commented three years ago, the mine could be interpreted as a "proof of love", given by the Menem & Cavallo governments to transnational mining corporations. But, in spite of being one of the main exporting provinces of the country, Catamarca is still one of the poorest - as anyone who has travelled through the harsh and dry roads in the western part of the province can verify.

Could the sentencing of Rooney be "the beginning of the end" for large scale mining in Argentina, and freeze the Agua Rica copper project, located 30 Km south of Alumbrera? "

Argentina Court Convicts Xstrata Executive For Mine Pollution - Procesan al vicepresidente de Minera Alumbrera por contaminación

Published on MAC, 9 June 2008

"A common social goal - stop large scale mining"

Ximena Warnaars has chosen the April 2008 announcement from Ecuador that the country's Constituent Assembly had ordered the "freezing" of all mining exploration concessions. Says Ximena:

"Ecuador does not have a history of large scale mining. However, various mining projects (mainly Canadian) are currently in the exploration phase and one project is about to move to exploitation. These activities in the last few years created social conflicts, including violence against some local communities.

"Social movements have, for the first time in Ecuador´s history, included a variety of actors - environmentalists, indigenous organisations, agriculturalists, coastal communities and small scale miners - mobilising with a common goal: to stop large scale mining. This seemed, until recently, to be achieving positive results, especially after leftist president, Rafael Correa, promised that, if the people didn't want mining, their wishes would be respected. However, Correa has, instead, become salesperson of the year for the mining companies, in his desperation to fund government programs as the country's oil industry has declined.

"At the beginning of 2008, Ecuador's Constituent Assembly, during the drafting of a new Constitution, produced a Mining Mandate which incorporated the demands of the social movements.

"Unfortunately, the Mandate has not been implemented to the full, and there's the threat of a new mining law being passed in 2009 that would aggressively promote the industry. Nonetheless resistance to it is strong; its implementation has been postponed; and it's terms are still being strongly debated. "

Ecuador: Constitutional mandate freezes mining exploration/Ecuador revoka concesiones

Published on MAC: 30 April 2008

Coal multinationals capitulate to community-led pressures

A well-coordinated, 7-year long, international campaign to secure justice for a small displaced community in northern Colombia, has achieved notable success. This is according to Armando Perez Araujo, one of our Colombian editors, and UK-based Richard Solly. Read the full story here:

Indonesia's year of unprecedented unnatural disaster

One of our Indonesian editors, Chalid Muhammad, presents a cogent and damning indictment of the degree to which mining and logging have accentuated the country's recent "natural" disasters that themselves have claimed thousands of lives and made an estimated 3 million people homeless.

Stemming bad finance in the Philippines

A MAC Philippine editor, Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan-PNE, offers up a commendably detailed analysis of the nature of mining in his country, which urges the targeting of private funders during future campaigns.

Canada: Success at the Supreme Court

Jamie Kneen, part of that band of distinguished mining critics, MiningWatch Canada, found it hard to select just one example from the various battles waged during 2008. He's settled for a recent victory at the country's Supreme Court which could lead to compulsory public hearings on the environmental consequences of most future mines.

Norway says "No Way!" to Rio

Finally, MAC's managing editor, Roger Moody, selects as his 2008 highlight the Norwegian government pension fund's September rejection of investment in UK-Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto.

"This disinvestment", comments Roger, "was due to Rio Tinto's continued partnership with Freeport McMoran and their critical role in ravaging a huge part of the ecology and vital river systems of West Papua. In 1996, the UK company had provided a tremendous financial boost to its US partner's fortunes, turning Grasberg, already a global environmental ignominy, into the single most destructive mine of its kind. For more than a decade, Rio Tinto sought to absolve itself from blame - not least for mounting human rights abuses associated with the project - by claiming it was simply a junior joint venture partner. The Norwegian government blasted that pretext out of the water and in the process vindicated thirteen years of campaigning by groups not only in West Papua and Indonesia, but across the world."

World's second biggest pension fund dumps Rio Tinto

Published on MAC: 16 September 2008

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