Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed Nov. 28 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 late last month, as local campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the general 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. SQM has options to collaborate in development of the Maricunga lease with state mineral company Codelco, but announcement of a deal has been delayed amid depressed global lithium prices. This is partly attributed to a cut in government subsidies for purchasers of electric vehicles in China, a main destination for Chilean lithium. (Mundo Maritimo, Nov. 29; Reuters, Nov. 28; FT, Nov. 21; El Ciudadano, Chile, Oct. 27)
A new Amnesty International report warns of rising political violence in Guinea amid growing public concern that President Alpha Condé will amend the constitution to run for a third term. Nine protestors were killed last month alone, and scores arrested, including leaders of pro-democracy movements, Amnesty charges in the Nov. 13 report. "This is an affront to human rights and a brutal attempt by the Guinean authorities to silence dissent," said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty's West and Central Africa director. At least 60 members of the pro-democracy group National Front for the Defense of the Constitution have been arrested since early October, and a court sentenced five of the group's leaders to up to one year in prison for calling the peaceful protest. Dozens of those who participated were also sentenced to a year in prison for attending an "illegal assembly."
Bolivia's government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA)—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by local 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. (DW, Nov. 4)
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 state, 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 cyanide gold mining, including in Sudan's Northern State, Radio Dabanga reports. (Middle East Eye, Sept. 26)
At least 25 Malian soldiers are dead and more than 60 others missing after two assaults on bases in central Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso. On Sept. 30, jihadist forces simultaneously targeted the Malian army base in Mondoro and the G5 Sahel force camp at Boulikessi. The G5 Sahel group includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, and receives logistical support from the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Malian officials say the insurgents used "heavy weapons" in the assaults, and that at least 15 militants were killed. Local reports indicate the militants were able to briefly hold the bases and capture large amounts of weapons and equipment. Mali has now launched a joint operation with Burkina Faso and French forces in the region to hunt down the militants.
The US and Brazil on Sept. 13 announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to "protect biodiversity" by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. At the meeting in Washington where the pact was struck, Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest. So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us." (BBC News, Sept. 14; AFP, Sept. 13)
Peru's Ministry of Energy & Mines (MINEM) on Aug. 9 officially suspended the license of the giant copper mine planned for Tia Maria, in the agricultural Tambo Valley of Arequipa region. The project had been the focus of years of protest mobilizations by local residents, and a new general strike, dubbed the Paro Macro-Regional, had been declared after MINEM finally issued a construction permit to the project's developer, Southern Copper Corporation, on July 8. In revoking the permit, MINEM implicitly invoked the protests, saying the "spaces for dialogue had not been generated" before the license was granted. Although the suspesion is indefinite, MINEM chief Francisco Ismodes said a review process for the social impacts of the project should take three months. Before the suspension, the Tambo Valley had been girding for a new wave of repression; days earlier, the Public Ministry issued an order allowing the use of military troops against protesters in the area. (AP via SinEmbergo, Aug. 11; Diario Uno, Diario Uno, Aug. 10; Reuters, Aug. 9; Peoples Dispatch, July 23)
For over a week now, some 100 laid-off miners and their families have occupied a railroad track in Kentucky's Harlan County, blocking a train loaded with coal that the workers dug out of the earth but never got paid for. The miners want their jobs back, if possible—but first of all, they want their wages for the work they already did. Blackjewel LLC abruptly shut down all its mines July 1 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Partway through a shift, workers were told the bad news and sent home. The miners never got their last paycheck. And their second-to-last paycheck, already deposited, disappeared from their bank accounts. The miners also never received any paper notice of their layoff, which proved a bureaucratic obstacle when they filed for unemployment.