The Caucasus
Lachin

Armenia detains anti-Russia protesters amid Lachin Corridor stand-off

At least 65 were arrested in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri as authorities dispersed a rally outside a Russian military base. Activists were demanding that Yerevan cut ties with Moscow amid a deepening stand-off with Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian “peacekeepers” have failed to re-open the Lachin Corridor, the only access in or out of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been closed by Azerbaijan for almost a month—leaving 100,000 ethnic Armenians trapped, with supplies of food and medicine running low. The corridor was supposed to remain open under terms of the November 2020 ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But the corridor has for nearly a month been blocked by Azeri activists, who charge that unregulated mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are causing environmental damage to the territory. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

The Amazon
Loreto

‘Law of Genocide’ introduced in Peru

In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country’s Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru’s trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022 the “Law of PIACI Genocide”—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds authority in the matter. AIDESEP believes that the PIACI population in Peru is roughly 7,500 people—5,200 in isolation and 2,300 in a process of initial contact, mostly in the regions of Loreto and Madre de Dios. But a new alliance in support of oil, timber and other extractive industries, the Coordinator for the Development of Loreto, asserts that their existence is “not proven.” (Photo of Loreto rainforest via Pixabay)

The Amazon
VRAE

Protests as US troop mission approved for Peru

Peru’s Congress, at the behest of President Pedro Castillo’s government, voted to approve the entry of US military troops for participation in anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations. But the vote was protested by voices within Castillo’s own Partido PerĂş Libre (PPL), with legislator Kelly Portalatino calling it a “sign of submission.” Previous such US troop missions have seen operations in the Valley of the ApurĂ­mac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), a key coca cultivation zone. Campesinos of the VRAE Federation of Agrarian Producers (FEPAVRAE) have just announced a region-wide indefinite paro (civil strike) in protest of ongoing government coca-eradication campaigns. (Photo: FEPAVRAE)

The Amazon
Trujillo Arana

Indigenous leader slain in Venezuelan Amazon

A Venezuelan indigenous leader who fought against incursions by Colombian armed groups and outlaw gold miners into the country’s southern rainforest was shot dead in Puerto Ayacucho municipality, capital of Amazonas state. Virgilio Trujillo Arana, a member of the Uwottujja people, was the leading force in creation of the Sipapo Territorial Guards in Autana municipality, Amazonas. The Territorial Guard patrols were launched with support from the Amazonas Indigenous Peoples’ Regional Organization (ORPIA). (Photo: SOS Orinoco)

Africa
Sudan

Wagner Group named in massacres on Sudan-CAR borderlands

Russian mercenaries are accused of carrying out a series of deadly attacks on artisanal miners in the lawless border zone between Sudan and the Central African Republic, in an apparent effort to establish dominance over outlaw gold mining operations with allied paramilitary factions. Dozens are said to have been killed in attacks on mining camps this year, allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group. Witnesses interviewed by The Guardian described “massacres” and looting by Wagner gunmen. The “Troika” diplomatic group that helps oversee the Sudan peace process released a report in March charging that the Wagner Group is engaged in illegal gold mining in collaboration with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group backed by the Sudanese regime. Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement denying the presence of the Wagner Group in the country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

The Andes
colombiahr

Protest closing of ICC Colombia investigation

A coalition of Colombian human rights groups and survivors’ organizations released a statement decrying as “shocking” the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to close its preliminary examination of possible war crimes carried out in the country. The statement, jointly issued by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the JosĂ© Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), said that closure of the examination “could mean that hundreds or thousands of victims of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC will be deprived of knowing the truth and obtaining justice concerning the crimes committed. In Colombia…there is still a systematic absence of investigation of those responsible at the highest levels for crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.” (Photo: Prensa Rural)

Africa
Sahel

Sahel: deadly violence in mining sector

At least two were killed as security forces attacked protesting gold miners at Burkina Faso’s western HoundĂ© commune. The protesters were demanding release of 12 of their comrades who had been arrested a week earlier, when informal miners angered by government moves to expel their camps overran and ransacked the facilities of HoundĂ© Gold Operation, a subsidiary of UK-based multinational Endeavour Mining. In far greater violence, fighting between rival groups of informal gold miners in the remote north of Chad left an estimated 200 dead. The clashes at Kouri Bougoudi, in the Tibesti mountains on the Libyan border, apparently pitted ethnic Arabs against members of the Tama community. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Africa mining

Artisanal gold miners massacred in DRC

At least 35 people were killed when armed men raided a gold mining camp in Ituri province, in the conflicted northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local authorities at the rural commune of Mungwalu blamed the attack on the CODECO rebel militia. A four-month-old baby was among the dead. The militiamen also looted and torched homes at Camp Blanquette, and seized quantities of extracted gold. Informal mines in the eastern DRC provide much of the country’s output of gold, cobalt and other minerals used in the global electronics industry. The minerals, extracted under dangerous and oppressive conditions, continue to be a goad to internal warfare by rival armed factions. (Photo via Africa Up Close)

The Amazon
Ato Pela Terra

Brazil: bill to open indigenous reserves to mining

Under the slogan “Ato Pela Terra” (Stand for the Earth), thousands of protesters, including some 150 indigenous leaders from eight ethnic groups, gathered for the biggest environmentalist demonstration ever held in Brazil’s capital, protesting a series of bills dubbed the “death package” by critics. The package being pushed by President Jair Bolsonaro would open indigenous reserves to a wide range of economic activities, including mineral exploitation. This measure, assailed as unconstitutional, is actually opposed by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM), which issued a statement calling it “inappropriate” and warning that it would give legal cover to informal “garimpo” mining in the Amazon rainforest. But Bolsonaro maintains the measure is mandated by the Ukraine war, which has threatened supplies of strategic minerals, including the key fertilizer ingredient potassium. Brazil, the world’s top soy producer, imports 80% of its fertilizer—20% from Russia, its biggest supplier. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Apiate

Mining disaster wipes out community in Ghana

A rural community in Ghana’s Western Region was virtually flattened when a truck carrying explosives to a gold mine collided with a motorcycle, setting off a massive blast. Some 40 have been hospitalized, and the official death toll of 17 is expected to rise. The truck, owned by a local mining services company called Maxam, was en route to the Chirano gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Kinross Gold. The explosion left a huge crater and reduced dozens of buildings to dust-covered piles of wood and metal in the community of Apiate, near the city of Bogoso, some 300 kilometers west of the capital Accra. The chief executive of Prestea Huni-Valley municipality told local media “the whole community is gone” after the blast. (Photo: Prestea Huni-Valley Municipal Assembly via Mining.com)

The Amazon
Guiana shield

French troops hunt outlaw miners in Guiana

France has dispatched hundreds of army troops to the overseas territory of French Guiana, to hunt down outlaw gold miners who have destroyed thousands of hectares of rainforest along the Maroni River. But apprehending the garimpeiros is nearly impossible; they abandon their camps and dredges and melt into the jungle as the troops approach. Some 9,000 illegal miners are believed to be operating at around 150 sites across the territory—up from little more than 100 a decade ago. The garimpeiros, however, are the smallest links in a chain, paid a pittance—while the dealers they sell the gold to race up and down the river in speedboats. “We’re only catching the little guys,” admitted French Guiana’s public prosecutor Samuel Finielz. (Map of Guiana Shield: WikimediaCommons)

The Amazon
Madre de Dios

Podcast: indigenous survival and the crisis in Peru

In Episode 73 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Thomas Moore, anthropologist, advocate for indigenous cultural survival, and author of the newly released book, Madre de Dios: Refugio de Pueblos Originarios. The remote rainforest region of Madre de Dios in Peru’s southern Amazon is a last refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, but is now massively threatened by mining, timber and other resource interests that operate in a semi-legal gray zone in a nexus with criminal networks. Peru has made some progress in complying with international norms on protection of isolated peoples, but these advances stand to be dramatically reversed if far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori comes to power in the pending run-off election. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Amarakaeri)