South Asia
hazara

Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike

Members of Pakistan’s Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi’ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims’ families was rebuffed. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the coal-field. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (Photo via Twitter)

Iraq
Iraq pipeline

Crisis-hit Iraq mortgages oil to China

Iraq has won an up-front $2 billion infusion from a state-owned Chinese oil company, as it continues to struggle amid the pandemic-triggered collapse in energy prices. After numerous bids to Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO), the deal was clinched by ZhenHua Oil Co, subsidiary of China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco). The deal marks the first in which Iraq has offered a pre-payment for crude, with oil effectively used as security for a loan. According to Bloomberg, SOMO is to supply some 130,000 barrels a day of crude for five years. Norinco is primarily a defense company, with investments in oil and minerals in several countries. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

Oceania
torres strait

Strategic strait at issue in Australia-China rift

Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda¬†sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)

The Amazon
Madre de Dios

Mine ponds amplify mercury risks in Peru’s Amazon

The proliferation of pits and ponds created in recent years by miners dredging for small deposits of alluvial gold in Peru’s Amazon has dramatically altered the landscape and increased the risk of mercury exposure for indigenous communities and wildlife, a new study shows. The study¬†found a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape in heavily mined watersheds since 1985. These formerly forested landscapes are now dotted by these small lakes, which provide low-oxygen conditions in which submerged mercury‚ÄĒa toxic leftover from the mining process‚ÄĒcan be converted by microbial activity into an even more toxic form of the element, called methylmercury. The miners use mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to separate ore from soil and sediments, often without adequate safety precautions. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is believed to be the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions. (Photo via¬†EurekaAlert!)

Africa
Somkhele

South Africa: coal mine opponent killed in KwaZulu

Four gunmen shot and killed local anti-mining activist Fikile Ntshangase at her home in South Africa‚Äôs KwaZulu-Natal province. Ntshangase, 65, was a leading member of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), which is taking legal action to prevent the expansion of an open-cast coal mine at Somkhele, on the southeastern border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park. MCEJO also says the mine’s existing operations should be halted because they are not compliant with environmental and other laws. The murder points to escalating pressure on communities across South Africa to accept environmentally damaging mining operations on their lands.¬†(Image: Divided We Dance)

The Andes
Luis Arce

Bolivia: back to ‘socialism,’ or meet the new boss?

Luis Arce, candidate of the party of ousted president Evo Morales, has seemingly swept to victory in Bolivia’s¬†presidential elections. While the official count is technically still pending, results place him with more than 50% of the vote‚ÄĒwell above the second-place center-right contender Carlos Mesa and with far more than the required majority to avoid a runoff. This represents a significant recoup of losses for the Movement Toward Socialism-Political Instrument for the Peoples’ Sovereignty (MAS-IPSP), which Morales nominally still leads from exile in Argentina. As news of the victory broke, supporters gathered outside Arce’s campaign office to chant “The pollera will be respected!”‚ÄĒa reference to the traditional skirt that has become a symbol of the MAS-IPSP indigenous base. But¬†when Arce assumes the presidency, he will be taking over a country debilitated by deep recession. “We will have to have austerity measures. There’s no other option if we don’t have enough income to cover our current expenditures,” Arce admitted to reporters.¬†(Image via Carwil without Borders)

Planet Watch
GLAN

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths¬†aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.¬†A similar legal action has been launched by a group of youth in Australia, seeking an injunction to stop approval of a license extension at Whitehaven Coal‘s Vickery mine in New South Wales, arguing that it would threaten the futures of young people all over the world by exacerbating climate change.¬†(Photo:¬†GLAN)

The Andes
paro

Peru: high court rules ‘social protest’ protected

In a decision made very timely amid new mobilizations against oil and mineral operations on peasant and indigenous lands, Peru’s high court struck down a provision of the country’s penal code that rights advocates said criminalized the right to “social protest.” The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal voided an amendment to Article 200 of the Penal Code that had been instated under Legislative Decree 1237, issued by then-president Ollanta Humala in September 2015. The decree expanded the definition of “extortion” to apply not only to use of force to gain “economic advantage” but also “advantage of any other nature.” This expanded definition has been used to bring criminal charges against protesters who have blocked roads or occupied oil-fields or mining installations. (Photo: IDL)

Planet Watch
NORILSK

Russia: state of emergency after Arctic oil spill

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the ecologically fragile region. The spill was caused by rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant run by Nornickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer. The Russian government has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The spill has caused large portions of the Ambarnaya River to turn a dark crimson, and is believed to be the second-largest in Russian history. An area of at least 350 square kilometers has been contaminated. (Photo: Russian Civil Defense via TASS)

The Amazon
Amazon deaths

COVID-19: Amazon indigenous groups fear the worst

Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The major Amazon River ports of Manaus and Iquitos are among the hardest hit cities in South America, and deaths are already reported from indigenous communities deep in the rainforest, where health services are virtually non-existent. Communities already threatened by wildfires and illegal logging could be pushed to the brink in the coming months. (Photo: InfoRegión)

The Andes
Paradita

Politicians exploit COVID-19 in Peru, Bolivia

Peru’s right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and anti-corruption prosecutors are protesting her release as “illegitimate.”¬†Ironically, Fujimori’s release comes just as¬†the Peruvian government issued a decree authorizing mining operations to resume in the country. Bolivia has likewise ordered operations to resume at the country’s mines‚ÄĒwhile¬†interim president Jeanine A√Īez, who came to power after Evo Morales was ousted last year,¬†has invoked the pandemic to indefinitely postpone new elections.¬†(Photo:¬†Diaro Uno)

Southeast Asia
Java repression

Land conflicts escalate in Indonesia

Agribusiness and resource companies embroiled in land disputes with rural communities in Indonesia appear to be using the lull in oversight during the COVID-19 outbreak to strengthen their claims to contested areas. Since the first confirmed cases of the disease were reported in the country last month, two local land defenders have been killed and four arrested in connection with disputes in Sumatra, Java and Borneo. (Photo: Mongabay)