MAC: Mines and Communities

International Conference declares mining "red alert" for Latin America

Published by MAC on 2009-09-01

An international conference, recently held in Guatemala, analysed the challenges of confronting increasing impoverishment, oppression and social exclusion, caused by mining in Latin America.

The resulting declaration can be signed here:



5 August 2009 

We, the different institutions, community-based organizations and social leaders of Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras, Belgium, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Sweden, El Salvador, Argentina and France, participants in the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MINING, within the context of the EL DORADO II International Seminar, have gathered from 3rd to 5th August in Antigua, Guatemala, to exchange experiences and information on the mining issue in Latin America.

Exploitation of natural resources and raw materials in general has entered a new phase, as a result of the global economic crisis caused by capitalism’s need for accumulation, which encourages consumerism and creates ever-increasing demand for non-renewable energy resources which are being depleted. Consequently, the inaccurately-labeled “developing countries” continue to act as providers of strategic natural resources such as oil, minerals, biofuels, industrial oil, and water.

The companies which operate in our countries do not pay taxes in relation to the huge profits they reap on the international market. In the cases examined during this conference, a correlation was shown between mining and an increase in levels of poverty and social exclusion, as the mining competes with the local economy in the affected communities, having effects above all in agriculture and a subsequent detrimental effect on food sovereignty. For this reason, metal mining does not contribute to the countries’ revenue or to the local economies.

Governments do not honor their fundamental role in guaranteeing human rights and promoting a multi-dimensional approach to community development, and to this end regulating private enterprises; in practice they do not sanction, enforce legislation, or oblige companies to comply with environmental regulations.

In other cases, the environmental monitoring bodies are biased in favor of the companies involved in the process of extraction, meaning that mining industries are never held accountable for health problems of employees and the local population. Furthermore, the companies are responsible for the loss of biodiversity due to the high levels of water pollution caused by the use and generation of highly toxic chemical elements such as cyanide, arsenic, mercury, and lead.

The presence of the mining industry alters fundamental ecological processes, such as the water cycle: excessive use of this resource causes springs to dry up, and the groundwater table is contaminated and decreasing due to the use of heavy metals and dangerous substances. The social, cultural, environmental, and economic effects suffered by communities affected by mining damage living conditions, are irreversible, and condemn future generations.

The capitalist and neoliberal economic system is characterized by the pillage, looting, and lack of respect for the land belonging to peasant farmer and indigenous communities. The states and companies which follow this model disregard the concept of prior consultation, stipulated in national and international legal instruments, such as Article 169 of the ILO (International Labor Organization) and the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Communities, thereby completely disregarding their social, economic and cultural rights.

The governments continue to use repressive mechanisms and to violate the right of free association and protest in order to criminalize the communities’ requests. The mining companies encourage the corruption of managers and authorities, using blackmail, creating divisions, and promoting social demobilization and confrontation between citizens. A common practice is to create parallel organizations to weaken and delegitimize social movements with the approval of the respective governments.

In alliance with local and national governments and groups holding economic power, the companies repress, stigmatise, persecute, prosecute and imprison those leaders, or those individuals, whom they see as going against their interests.

We gathered in the city of Antigua, Guatemala, to denounce these damaging, unfair, and overall unnecessary practices. The mining activity is in the interests of few economically-powerful transnational companies and small national groups, and benefits neither the communities nor the national governments. For this reason we reject the irresponsible actions of the mining companies, as well as those of the governments which are complicit in the destruction and the bludgeoning of the human rights of those communities affected by the mine.

As participants in the International Conference on Mining we show solidarity with the communities who find themselves in a constant struggle, and who have held numerous community referendums in which they have rejected the mining activity. Based on their territorial articulation, the towns and communities have propelled campaigns and made proposals for a new way of life.

We consider ourselves to be on red alert, ready to take whatever action necessary to support the process of restoring the communities’ rights and helping to preserve the natural environment, in this way maintaining a balance in the development of our countries.

We aim to once again demonstrate the environmental, social and moral unsustainability of the extractive capitalist model, and we declare the necessity to replace this with models which place individuals and all forms of life in the centre of the development model and which return to respecting nature in day-to-day life.

We demand that the politicians responsible make urgent changes to their policies and to this development model. We demand that they promote the recuperation and exercise of the rights of the communities, and that they guarantee reorientation processes for the economic bases for development in our communities. We also ask that they put into effect a model which encourages social and environmental justice.

We encourage the people to work together in building a new relationship between mankind and nature; that we can live together in a fraternal, fair, equitable and sustainable setting which allows all to live in peace, as part of nature, and within which the Sumaj Kausay o Buen Vivir (Good Life) is the basis for our states and for future development. 



1. Understand and show evidence of the latest cycle of capitalist accumulation which is expressed through the extractive industry in our countries, especially through mining.

2. Building an alternative source of power through the self-determination of communities and from the experience of indigenous communities, who through the community referendums are proving their self-determination on their territory.

3. The defence of territory and the environment (natural resources, history, identity) as a concrete process to re-establish the state, as a process which goes beyond the discourse of “the rule of law that is convenient for the capital”, and as a political exercise of the expansion of another truth, another version of history and other forms of development.

4. The permanent social articulation from the perspective of a diverse social movement and not just of civil society. That is to say, from the perspective of the indigenous communities’ and non indigenous communities’ campaigns and also from the perspective of the social actors in the international arena.

5. International cooperation and civil society have to be subject to the demands of the communities, contribute to the articulation of national and international movements, and strengthen the power of these communities in countering the imposed hegemonic power structure.

Antigua Guatemala, 5th August 2009

Signed by

FLACSO Guatemala, Area de Movimientos Sociales
Amigos del Lago Izabal – ASALI - Guatemala
Rights Action - Guatemala
Comité Académico Técnico de Asesoramiento Ambiental – CATAPA - Bélgica
Comisión Pastoral Paz y Ecología  – COPAE - Guatemala
CEIBA - Guatemala
Asociación Civil El Observador- Guatemala
Plataforma Holandesa - Guatemala
Asamblea Departamental en Defensa de los Recursos Naturales de Huehuetenango - Guatemala
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros – OCMAL - Ecuador
Comunidad Estudiantil NO´J - Guatemala
Vicaría del Medio Ambiente –  VIMA – Perú
Coordinadora en Defensa de La Cuenca Rio Desaguadero, Uru Uru y Poopó - CORIDUP – Bolivia
Centro Ecología y Pueblos Andinos - Bolivia
Consejo de los Pueblos del Occidente – Guatemala
Consejo de los Pueblos de Huehuetenango – Guatemala
Consejo de los Pueblos Kiche –  Guatemala
Consejo de los Pueblos San Marcos - Guatemala
Movimiento de Trabajadores Campesinos – MTC – Guatemala
Plataforma Agraria – Guatemala
Pastoral de la Tierra Livingston Izabal – Guatemala
Asociación de Organizaciones no Gubernamentales – ASONOG – Honduras
Alianza Cívica por la Democrácia - Honduras
CORDAID – Holanda
Colectif Guatemala - Francia/Guatemala
Comisión de Justicia y Paz  Familia Franciscana- Guatemala
Network in Solidarity with Guatemala NISGUA - Guatemala
Center for International Environmental Law – CIEL – EE.UU.
Solidaridad Suecia-América Latina
Asociación de Mujeres Xinkas de Santa María Xalapán Jalapa -Amismaxaj – Guatemala
Acción Comunitaria Xinka Xalapán
Parroquia de San Miguel Ixtahuacán San Marcos - Guatemala
Red Mesoamericana Contra la Minería
Iglesia Luterana ILUGUA - Guatemala
Asociacion para la defenza de la montaña Las Granadillas - Guatemala
Comunidades afectadas y amenazadas por la mineria en el municipio de El Estor y Polochic - Guatemala
Ajchmol San Marcos – Guatemala
Solidaridad - Holanda
Movimiento Ambientalista de Campamento – Honduras
TROCAIRE – Guatemala
AVANCSO – Guatemala
Movimiento Popular Guevarista – Guatemala
Central Única Nacional de Rondas Campesinas – CUNARP – Perú
Asociación de Municipios Oruro – AMDEOR – Bolivia
Colectivo Punto Verde
Red de Comunidades Afectadas por la Minería – Honduras
Red Magesterial Popular México
Coordinacón de Organizaciones de los Pueblos Mayas en Lucha por su Liberación – COCPUMAL – México
MILPA – Chile
URV Solidaridad –  Chile
CENSAT ‘Agua Viva’, Amigos de la Tierra – Colombia
Cristina Steffen
Centro de Promoción y Educación Profesional ‘Vasco de Quiroga’ – México
Red Nacional Género y Economía – México
Mujeres para el diálogo – México
Comunidad Estudiantil No’j – Guatemala
Grupo de Trabajo en Ecología Política, CLACSO – Brasil
Frente Popular Darío Santillán – Argentina
Thomas De Maeseneer – Bélgica

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