informal mining

Colombia: protests against illegal mining in Cauca

Hundreds of indigenous and Afro-Colombian protesters from La Toma, Suárez municipality, in Colombia's southwest Cauca region, marched over the weekend against illegal gold mining taking place in their territories. The communities, angry about environmental damage caused by the activity, said they had received threats from the Rastrojos paramilitary group for their opposition to the mining. The three-day cross-country march along the Pan-American Highway culminated Feb. 16 at Buenos Aires, in northern Cauca.

Andes: repression ahead of Lima climate summit

On Dec. 3, a group of Shuar indigenous women from Ecuador's Amazon arrived in Quito to demand an investigation in the death of community leader José Tendetza Antún, who was planning on travelling to Peru for the Lima climate summit this month to press demands for cancellation of a mining project. Tendetza represented that Shuar community of Yanúa, El Pangui canton, Zamora Chinchipe province (see map). He disappeared Nov. 28 while on his way to discuss the mine matter with officials in the town of Bomboíza. The community launched a search, and his body was found Dec. 2 by local gold-miners. But the remains were turned over directly to the authorities, and quickly buried. Shuar leaders are demanding they be exhumed, and an autopsy conducted. Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash said based on what the miners said, he believes Tendetza had been beaten to death, and perhaps tortured.

Afghan mining law to 'strengthen armed groups'?

A new law designed to regulate Afghanistan's nascent mining sector could increase corruption, lead to forced displacements and even allow armed groups to take control of the sector, transparency groups have warned. The law, passed by parliament earlier this month, is likely to lead to the signing of several key deals to extract the country’s newfound minerals—estimated to be worth as much as $3 trillion. Yet the transparency organization Global Witness warned that the law "does not include basic safeguards against corruption and conflict." Government officials deny the claim, saying that further protections are to be written in later. Afghanistan's discovery of huge reserves of key minerals in recent years has raised hopes of a bounty of deals that could potentially help the country’s economy grow, and stabilize the country, following the pullout of US troops at the end of 2014. Yet the bids have been delayed by what were perceived as an unfriendly legal framework for business. Sayed Hashemi, legal director at the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, said a previous law signed in 2010 was seen as too tough on companies as it did not allow them to turn exploration licenses into exploitation. "No investor was interested to come into Afghanistan," he told IRIN. Hashemi said the new law is intended to make investing easier.

Gunmen threaten to assassinate Yanomami leader

Davi Kopenawa, traditional shaman and internationally renowned spokesman for the Yanomami people in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, has demanded urgent police protection following a series of death threats by armed thugs reportedly hired by gold-miners operating illegally on Yanomami land in Roraima state. In June, armed men on motorbikes raided the Boa Vista office of Brazil's non-governmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), which works closely with the Yanomami, asking for Davi. The men threatened ISA staff with guns and stole computers and other equipment. After the assault, one of the men was arrested, and reportedly told police that he had been hired by gold-miners. In May, Yanomami Association Hutukara, headed by Davi, received a message from gold-miners saying that Davi would not be alive by the end of the year.

Venezuela: Amazon indigenous protest mining law

Meeting June 2 in Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas state, Venezuela's Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of Amazonas (COIAM) issued a statement protesting President Nicolás Maduro's Decree No. 841 of March 20, which creates a commission to oversee bringing illegal gold-miners in the rainforest region under government control. The program falls under the Second Socialist Plan for the Nation, charting development objectives from 2013 through 2019, with an emphasis on the "Orinico Mineral Arc." But the mining has caused grave ecological, cultural and health impacts on the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples of the area. COIAM is demanding a moratorium on all mineral activity in the Guayana administraive region, which covers the southern Orinoco basin in Amazonas and the adjacent states of Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. (See map.) (Sociedad Homo et Natura, June 9; COIAM, June 2; Survival International, Nov. 7, 2013)

Mexico: more narco-mineral exports seized

Mexican authorities on May 1 announced the seizure of a ship carrying 68,000 tons of illegal iron ore bound for China—hailed as the latest blow in a crackdown on the contraband mineral sideline by the Knights Templar drug cartel. Federal police were apparently tipped off by an anonymous phone call after the ship left Lazaro Cárdenas, the Pacific port in conflicted Michoacán state. Authorities detained the ship, the Jian Hua, off Manzanillo, the next major port up the coast, in neighboring Colima state. The ship's crew produced documents showing it had authorization to transport the iron ore. But authoriites said the paperwork listed a legal mine that was not the actual source of the contraband ore. The company operating the ship, China's Fujian Huarong Marine, has been given one month to prove to authorities that the ore was extracted legally. Mexican authorities say they have seized more than 200,000 tons of illegal iron ore so far this year, most of it headed for China.

May Day mining disaster in Colombia

An unknown number of miners—perhaps as many as 40—were buried alive as an illegal gold mine collapsed late on the night of April 30 at El Palmar, in Colombia's southern department of Cauca. Local campesinos spent May Day volunteering with Santander de Quilichao municipal brigades in a desperate effort to unearth the victims—none of whom are believed to survive. Thus far, only three bodies have been recovered, according to local Red Cross workers. Local residents said the "owners" of the mine were able to escape, but it is still unlcear exactly who they are.

Bolivia: three dead in miners' protests

Thousands of miners blocked highways in five departments of Bolivia for five days starting March 31 to protest a pending new mining law. Members of mining cooperatives installed at least 10 roablocks in the departments of  La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí and Oruro. At least three were killed in clashes with the National Police. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation, which had already cleared the lower-house Chamber of Deputies. The bill sought to bar the cooperatives from seeking private investment, restricting them to contracts with the Bolivian state. In response to the protests, President Evo Morales is drafting a new bill that would allow private contracts while restricting investment by foreign companies. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, April 5; EFE, AFPEl Universal, Venezuela, April 4; EFE, April 3; El Deber, Santa Cruz, Reuters, April 1)

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