Oceania
Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto accused of rights violations in Bougainville

Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville, the Human Rights Law Centreconcludes in a new investigative report. For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion metric tons of mine waste. The report, After the Mine: Living with Rio Tinto’s Deadly Legacy, documents the devastating consequences of that action for the thousands of people living around the mine site. The report reveals communities living with contaminated water sources, land and crops flooded by toxic mud, and health problems ranging from skin diseases and respiratory ailments to pregnancy complications. (Image: Human Rights Law Centre)

Europe
Crimea Canal

Ukraine to lift ‘water blockade’ of Crimea?

Ukrainian lawmakers from the ruling party have proposed resuming the water supply to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, leading to public outrage. After Russia’s 2014 seizure and unilateral annexation of Crimea, Ukraine ceased supplying water to the arid peninsula. Before the occupation, water was supplied from the Ukrainian mainland through the North Crimean Canal. Today, a dam blocks the canal on the de facto border with Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast. The shortage of water has hurt Crimean agriculture and industry, although most households rely on local wells. MPs from the ruling Servant of the People party proposed either selling the water to Crimea or using it to leverage a withdrawal of Russian military forces from the conflicted Donbas region in Ukraine’s east. But Refat Chubarov, the Crimean Tatar leader who was exiled from the peninsula by Russia after the take-over, responded that any agreement to supply water to Crimea, regardless of the conditions, would be a betrayal of the 500,000 Tatars living in the peninsula. (Map: EuroMaidan Press)

Mexico
Boquilla Dam

Mexican farmers protest water diversion to US

More than 3,000 farmers and residents of four rural municipalities in Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua clashed with Mexican National Guard troops in a protest over the federal government’s plan to divert water from a dam into the Rio Grande for the use in the United States. Protesters from the municipalities of Camargo, La Cruz, Delicias and San Francisco de Conchos confronted troops guarding La Boquilla Dam on the Rio Conchos with the aim of occupying the facility and preventing the water diversion. The National Water Commission intends to open the sluices of the dam to divert hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water to the Rio Grande, in order to comply with a 1944 Water Treaty between Mexico and the US. Mexico has a 220-million-cubic-meter “water debt” to the US, but farmers say that the massive diversion will leave them with insufficient water. (Photo: Opción de Chihuahua)

The Andes
Chumbivilcas

Peru: campesino ecological defenders acquitted

Following a trial lasting years, a criminal court in Peru’s Cuzco region finally absolved 10 campesinos from Chumbivilcas province of charges related to a 2011 protest against the ANABI mineral project, which they say threatens the headwaters of the Rio Yahuarmayo. The defendants—nine men and one woman—are followers of the Tupac Amaru Agrarian Federation of Cuzco (FARTAC). They had been charged with “disturbance,” “deprivation of liberty,” “aggravated property damage,” and other offenses typically used against protesters in Peru. If convicted, they could have faced up to 30 years in prison. The ANABI gold and copper mine is in neighboring Apurímac region, but the minerals are transported through Chumbivilcas on unimproved roads, raising dust that contaminates local lands and waters. (Photo: Wayka)

Southern Cone
lithium

Chile: indigenous win a round in lithium struggle

The First Environmental Tribunal in the Chile’s northern city of Antofagasta ruled in favor of indigenous communities that had brought suit against Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), the world’s second-largest miner of lithium. The court found SQM’s compliance plan for water preservation submitted to Chile’s Environment Superintendency (SMA) was “insufficient,” citing the “particular fragility” of the lithium-rich but extremely arid salt-flats where the company hopes to expand operations, the Salar de Atacama. Under the ruling, SQM must submit a new compliance plan, pay multi-million fines to the SMA for being out of compliance, or suspend operations. “We must protect sensitive ecosystems even more when they constitute the ancestral habitat of our native peoples whom the State of Chile is obliged to protect,” the court’s chief justice, Mauricio Oviedo, said in a statement. The case was brought by the local Council of Atacameño Pueblos, representing the impacted indigenous communities of Peine and Camar. (Photo: First Environmental Tribunal of Antofagasta)

New York City
James Bay

Podcast: the struggle for James Bay

“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

The Andes
sutesal

Peru next for regional protest wave?

Weeks after a nationwide uprising in Chile was sparked by protests over transit fare hikes in the capital, politicians in neighboring Peru are issuing nervous warnings in the wake of days of street demonstrations in Lima. This week, students occupied Central Station on Lima’s Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, workers marched to oppose the privatization of the city’s water system, and hundreds protested the pending release of imprisoned right-wing political leader Keiko Fujimori. President Martin Vizcarra took note of the threat of widespread unrest when he told the Annual Conference of Executives that Peru “is not free of protests” and must work to fight corruption and close the wealth gap. But his prescription was for an “authentic” free market—precisely the policies now being protested. (Photo: Diario Uno)

Southern Cone
Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. (Photo via El Ciudadano)

The Andes
lithium fields

Bolivia: lithium interests at play in Evo’s ouster?

Bolivia’s government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on “agitators” seeking to undermine development in the region. Plans for lithium exploitation were first announced over a decade ago, but have seen little progress—in large part due to the opposition of local communities, who fear the region’s scarce water resources will be threatened by mining. (Photo: Wikipedia)

South Asia
Bangladesh protest

Death of water activist sparks Bangladesh protests

Thousands of university students have held protests in Bangladesh since the killing of an undergraduate student, Abrar Fahad, who was beaten to death at the prestigious Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology. Several campus militants of the youth wing of the ruling Awami League have been arrested in the slaying. Protesters say Fahad was slain over his Facebook post critical of a water-sharing agreement just signed between Bangladesh and India. Under the agreement, signed one day before the murder, India is granted the right to withdraw 1.82 cusec (185,532 liters per hour) of water from Feni River. Apportioning the waters of Feni, Ganges, and other rivers shared by the two nations has long been a point of contention. Despite recent moves to protect these rivers, flow is now gravely threatened by the receding of the Himalayan glaciers due to climate change. (Photo: AJ+ via Twitter)

Africa
Nuba protest

Anti-mining protests in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

For the past several weeks, residents of Sudan’s conflicted Nuba Mountains have waged a protest campaign demanding the closure of unregulated gold mines in the region. Villagers from the communities of Talodi and Kalog, South Kordofan, have been holding a sit-in outside one of the facilities, where they charge cyanide is contaminating local water sources. The mining operation is said to be protected by fighters from the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary headed by warlord Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo AKA “Hemeti,” who is owner of the facility. Twelve people were killed by security forces at another gold mine near Talodi in April. The sit-in has won the support of the Sudanese Professionals Association, the main force behind nationwide protests that toppled strongman Omar Bashir earlier this year. Sit-ins have also spread to other areas affected by gold mining, including Sudan’s Northern State. (Photo: Radio Dabanga)