Mining in Azuay: a David vs. Goliath story

Kim Baert | Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador, Report, Mining, Mining, Mines&Territory, Mines&Territory, Mines&Territory, Mining, News, News, News, Report, Report

Mining in Azuay: a David vs. Goliath story

Azuay, a province in the south of Ecuador with Cuenca as its historic and cultural provincial capital, has rapidly developed into an emblematic region in the fight against mining. 

In the canton of Girón, in the province of Azuay, a public consultation (Consulta Popular) was organized on the 24th of March 2019 about the large-scale mining project Loma Larga. An historic event, because it was the first local referendum in Ecuador on a mining activity. 

During the Consulta Popular in Girón, the inhabitants were asked whether they agreed with extracting gold in the Páramo of Kimsacocha, located in the Cajas National Park. A páramo is a fragile ecosystem in the Andes High Mountains that is vital for water supply in the region and in the country. 

The result of the referendum was convincing! 87% of the community preferred water to gold and said “si a la vida, no a la minería”. An important precedent in Ecuador, because after this victory, other provinces tried to follow suit. Imbabura and Carchi, two provinces in the north of Ecuador, recently submitted an application for a Consulta Popular, but unfortunately this has been rejected by the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court. 

Also in terms of political leadership, the importance of the province of Azuay should not be underestimated. In May 2019 the inhabitants elected Yaku Pérez Guartambel as the new prefect. Since then, he has led the autonomous government of the province of Azuay. 

Yaku Pérez is known for his strong statements against the mining sector and his ambition to legally clear the province of Azuay from metal mining, in particular by organizing referendum. Yaku Pérez quickly became a symbolic figure in the country. 

Yaku Pérez at the demonstration in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

A constitutional problem 

Following the victory of the referendum in the canton of Girón, Yaku Pérez called for a general referendum on mining activities in the province of Azuay. This question was submitted to the Constitutional Court, but after a hearing on the 17th of September 2019, this request has been rejected. 

Pérez clearly expressed his dissatisfaction with the nature of the hearing. According to him, the President of the Court must hold a public hearing before taking a decision, as is customary in constitutional matters. “We want a public hearing so that we can look the judges in the eye and speak from the heart. To demonstrate in a factual and legal way the need for a public consultation,” according to Pérez.

Demonstration in front of Constitutional Court in Quito, 17 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Moreover, there is a conflict of interests within the Court. One of the constitutional judges, Dr. Ramiro Avila Santamaria, was not allowed to take part in the hearing because of earlier statements against extractivism. Other judges, who clearly have ties with the mining sector, were allowed to participate. Judge Carmen Corral is a lawyer at Solines Asociados, a law firm that provides advice and support to mining companies. Another judge, Hilda Nugues, is a member of the mediation committee of the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, which has spoken out against the referendum. 

There is clearly a lot of pressure from the national government and the large multinationals. There is great concern about what happened in Girón and fear about the outcome of such referendum at provincial and national level.

'SOMOS AGUA', demonstrators from Azuay in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Campaign against Yaku Pérez 

It was no coincidence that on the same day as the hearing, the pro-mining sector distributed a campaign on Twitter in which they attacked Yaku Pérez. 

They claimed that Pérez would have had mining concessions in the period 1999-2000 because his name was found in the mining register. 

Yaku Pérez disclaimed this argument. At the time, as a lawyer, he would have signed documents for the extraction of sand and stones for construction works in the province. This type of mining also is registered, but it doesn’t concern metal mining.

The battle continues 

Following the negative decision of the Constitutional Court, Pérez announced that he would step up the resistance and open a wider door by organizing a referendum at national level. 

The Ecuadorian Constitution recognizes the Consulta Popular as a legal citizens’ initiative. However, the mining industry and the Ecuadorian government argue that local consultations on mining cannot take place because the natural resources in the subsoil are a matter of national concern. 

'SOMOS AGUA', demonstrators from Azuay in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Moreover, the constitution states that the powers of various policy bodies are not exclusive, but competitive. “You may be the owner of what is in the subsoil, but you have to pass over the soil,” says lawyer Verónica Potes, expert in environmental law and human rights. 

“It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath”, says Yaku Pérez, “There aren’t many of us, but we have the truth, the reason and the legitimacy to our advantage. We continue the resistance and if necessary, we will denounce this issue before the international courts.” 

CATAPA in de kijker

Laura Garcia | Catapa in the spotlight, Catapistas, News

Dear Catapistas,

After the summer break we are back on track, feeling more enthusiast than ever and looking forward to seeing what the upcoming year will bring. And this time it comes with some breaking news!

Let me introduce you CATAPA in de kijker, the first edition of a series of updates on our movement, partners, activities, and most importantly, our awesome volunteers. We will try to bring this news fresh to your doorstep – or Facebook wall. And what a couple of months have been to begin with!

Last June our selfie-expert office team started with the first team-building activity. Studies show that co-workers who get along well are proven to yield more efficient results. So office productivity will skyrocket from now onwards🚀. Or maybe it won’t, and I have just made this up. But check how happy we look 😀

 

Beginning of July, some CATAPA representatives joined Make ICT Fair partner People & Planet’s Power Shift training in the UK. Some insightful days of workshops on justice struggle, collective liberation, campaign strategies, creative and non-violent direct action, grassroots organising, building a movement and reactive solidarity were followed by a direct public action on Divestment within their campaign #DivestBarcleys. Fists raised and #BarcleysCleanItUp! coming out of everyone’s mouth put an end to almost a week of energetic and fruitful encounters, which our CATAPA flag proudly witnessed…

 

During the same period, but on the other side of the world, our GECOs and partners from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru gathered for the intercambio, a whole week full of exchanges and learning from each other and each other’s work that ended up with an even more solid and stronger international solidarity network. “Ayllu Masikunapa!”, roughly meaning “we are all one family and we have to take care of each other”, perfectly defines this beautiful experience.

 

As summer went on, our already traditional Vamos de CATAPAs social gathering was held during the Gentse Feesten in Ghent, to the sound of Peruvian band Los Wemblers de Iquitos. How often does it happen that a band straight from one of the very places where CATAPA works in Latin America brings some latino vibes all the way to Belgium! So we had to celebrate… And celebrate we did💃

 

And finally September begun. As usual our summer camp took place at the beginning of this month, and Catapistas gathered to discuss different topics. Important to mention a very intimate moment we shared with ourselves, each other and nature, thanks to a guided ritual that brought us back to the intercambio and our partners in Latin America.

Old and new faces came together somewhere in West-Flanders to set the direction of the movement for the upcoming months. And so we riverdanced our way into the new season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immediately after the Summer camp, on Monday 9 September, the learning pathway within project Fair ICT Flanders started with the first workshop. Catapa gave a presentation on the impact of the ICT supply chain. Saartje Boutsen (MVO Vlaanderen) taught us how we can create support within an organisation around sustainability. 22 organisations signed present👏! Towards a fair and circular ICT procurement policy in Flanders!

 

 

 

 

 

And the new season comes with new Catapistas. Our EVS volunteers Nóra and Laura sadly have to say goodbye to the office team😢. But it won’t be easy to get rid of them since as you all know, once Catapista forever Catapista. And these Catapistas are taking many good memories from this experience with them.

Let’s hope the new ESC volunteers can gather memories as least as good during their time at the office and in the movement. Martina and Daniela arrived a couple of weeks ago and can’t wait to see what this experience will bring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our brand new office team we will finish this first CATAPA in de kijker edition. We hope you enjoyed this innovative way of communicating our updates. Thank you for reading and ¡hasta la próxima!

New report: A just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition

Daniela Marques Branco | Mining, News, Publications, Report

War on Want and London Mining Network, supported by the Yes to Life, No to Mining network, have launched a new report: Post-Extractivist_Transition

A just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition

Centering the extractive frontier in climate justice

While the global majority disproportionately suffer the impacts of the climate crisis and the extractivist model, the Global North’s legacy of colonialism, the excess of the world’s wealthiest, and the power of large corporations are responsible for these interrelated crises.

The climate change mitigation commitments thus far made by countries in the Global North are wholly insufficient; not only in terms of emissions reductions, but in their failure to address the root causes of the crisis – systemic and intersecting inequalities and injustices. This failure to take inequality and injustice seriously can be seen in even the most ambitious models of climate mitigation.

This report sets out to explore the social and ecological implications of those models with a focus on metal mining, in six sections:

  • Climate justice, just(ice) transition locates the report’s contributions within the broader struggle for climate and environmental justice, explains the reasoning for the report’s focus on mining and emphasizes the social dimension of energy transitions.
  • Extractivism in the decades to come discusses projections for total resource extraction over the next four decades and raises concerns about the interconnected ecological impacts of increased resource extraction.
  • The transition-mining nexus section places in perspective the significance of renewable energy technologies in driving demand, by examining the share of critical metal end-uses that renewable energy technologies account for relative to other end-uses.
  • Greenwashing, political will and investment trends expose how the mining industry is attracting investment and justifying new projects by citing projected critical metals demand and framing itself as a key actor in the transition.
  • Metal mining as a driver of socioenvironmental conflict offers a sense of the systemic and global nature of the social and ecological impacts of metal mining.
  • Moving beyond extractivism offers a sense of possibility in suggesting different ways forward, by addressing both the material and political challenges to a postextractivist transition.

 

This report finds that:

  • Current models project that as fossil fuels become less prominent in the generation of energy, metalintensive technologies will replace them. The assertion that economic growth can be decoupled, in absolute terms, from environmental and social impact is deeply flawed.
  • Central to these models is the unquestioned acceptance that economic growth in the Global North will continue unchanged, and as such, will perpetuate global and local inequalities and drive the demand for energy, metals, minerals and biomass further beyond the already breached capacity of the biosphere.
  • The assumption that economic growth is a valuable indicator of wellbeing must be challenged. Scarcity is the result of inequality, not a lack of productive capacity. Redistribution is the answer to both social and economic injustice and the threat that extractivism and climate breakdown pose.
  • Reducing fossil fuel energy dependence on its own is not a sufficient response to the intersecting socio-ecological crises, the extractivist model as a whole must be challenged.
  • There is a need to address the extractivist model because mineral, metal and biomass extraction threaten frontline communities and the interconnected ecologies that sustain life and wellbeing.
  • This need is particularly urgent because the mining industry is driving a new greenwashing narrative by claiming that vast quantities of metals will be needed to meet the material demands of renewable energy technologies.
  • This greenwashing narrative serves to obscure and justify the inherently harmful nature of extractivist mining. International financial institutions and sectors of civil society that have embraced these assumptions are complicit in the mining industry’s greenwashing efforts.
  • Increased investment and political will for large-scale mineral and metal extraction is not an inevitable consequence of the transition, it is one of the fundamental contradictions within a vision of climate change mitigation which fails to understand extractivism as a model fundamentally rooted in injustice.
  • Around the world, frontline communities are pushing back the expansion of extractivism and offering solutions to social and ecological injustice. But unfortunately, their voices, demands and visions are far too often absent in climate policy and campaigning spaces and agendas.
  • Justice and equity need to be understood as cross-cutting issues that touch every aspect of the transition. These principles are fully compatible with ecological wellbeing and mutually enhance one another. Increasing access to energy, food and public services goes hand-in-hand with reducing excess consumption through processes of redistribution. The solutions are fundamentally social; technical fixes and increases in efficiency do not bring about justice or ecological wellbeing on their own.

iPhone 11 Illegally Produced in China: Apple allows supplier factory Foxconn to violate labor laws

Laura Garcia | Report, News, News, News, Publications, Publications, Publications, Report, Report

iPhone 11 Illegally Produced in China
Apple allows supplier factory Foxconn to violate labor laws

“Over the years, China Labor Watch has monitored the working conditions at several Foxconn facilities and investigations have revealed a string of labor rights violations. In this year’s report, several investigators were employed at the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory, and one of the investigators worked there for over four years. Because of the long investigation period, this report reveals many details about the working and living conditions at the Foxconn factory.”

Among others, some of the labor rights violations registered at Zhengzhou Foxconn by NGO China Labor Watch are the following:

  • New workers have a probationary period of three months and if they wish to resign during this time, they must apply three days in advance.
  • During peak season, regular workers’ resignations won’t be approved.
  • After completing resignation procedures, factories will pay workers in around two weeks with no pay stub provided that month.
  • Some dispatch workers failed to receive their promised bonuses from the dispatch company.
  • The factory does not pay social insurance for the dispatched workers.
  • In 2018, dispatch workers made up 55% of the workforce. Chinese labor law stipulates that dispatch workers must not exceed 10% of the workforce. In August 2019, around 50% of the workforce were dispatch workers.
  • During peak production season, student workers must work overtime. However, according to regulations on student internships, students are not to work overtime or night shifts.
  • Chinese labor law mandates that workers must not work more than 36 overtime hours a month. However, during the peak production seasons, workers at Zhengzhou Foxconn put in at least 100 overtime hours a month. There have been periods where workers have one rest day for every 13 days worked or even have only one rest day for a month.
  • Workers have to receive approval not to work overtime. If workers do not receive approval and choose not to work overtime anyway, they will be admonished by the line manager and will not be working overtime in the future.
  • If work is not completed by the time the shift ends, workers must work overtime and workers are not paid for this. If there are abnormalities at work, they must work overtime until the issue has been addressed, and work done during this time is also unpaid.
  • Workers sometimes have to stay back for night meetings at work, and this time is unpaid.
  • The factory does not provide workers with adequate personal protective equipment and workers do not receive any occupational health and safety training.
  • The factory does not provide a single training class on fire safety and other relevant knowledge.
  • The chairman of the labor union is always appointed by the factory, not elected by the workers, and the chairman is always the department leader or manager.
  • The factory does not report work injuries.
  • Verbal abuse is common at the factory.
  • The factory recruits student workers through dispatch companies, as student workers sent by schools are subject to many restrictions.
  • The factory violates the “The Administrative Provisions on the Internships of Vocational School Students” which stipulates that student workers cannot be recruited by agencies or dispatch companies but only schools.

Read the full report here: Zhengzhou Foxconn

ESC Volunteer Vacancies – Become a Changemaker on Fair ICT

Laura Garcia | Catapa in the spotlight, Catapa in the spotlight, Catapa in the spotlight, News, News, News, Vacancy, Vacancy, Vacancy

ESC Volunteer Vacancies

Changemaker Fair ICT

Campaigning and Education

Communication

CATAPA

CATAPA is a volunteer movement which strives for a world in which the extraction of non-renewable resources is no longer necessary. The extraction of such materials always entails major social and environmental impacts and fuels conflict. In working towards global social and environmental justice, we focus on mining issues (ecological disasters, human rights violations, etc.) in Latin America, where we support local communities in Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia who are threatened by large-scale mining projects.

Our main activities are:

  • Internationalisation of the struggle of our partners in Latin-America and capacity building
  • Awareness raising on the impact of metal consumption amongst Belgian population
  • Creating a movement for sustainable consumption and production
  • Lobby and research

CATAPA is a grassroots movement, which means that we are mostly dependent on the work of our volunteers – the Catapistas. As a grassroots movement, we also work together with other grassroots movements in our partner countries.

 

Fair ICT

CATAPA is currently engaged in a European Union campaign called ‘Make ICT Fair’ together with 10 European partners. The goal of this project is to make the entire supply chain of ICT devices (smartphones, laptops, etc.) more sustainable. CATAPA focuses on the very first part of the global ICT supply chain: the extraction of metals and minerals. ICT devices contain a wide range of metals, which are extracted across the globe, causing harm to the environment and human rights.

We aim to achieve this goal through:

  • Awareness raising with the broader public
  • Advocacy towards public institutions for more sustainable ICT procurement
  • Supply chain research
  • Lobby activities for better legislation within the bigger consortium

In addition, the Fair ICT Flanders campaign wants companies, governments and higher education institutions in Flanders to take specific steps to develop a sustainable ICT purchasing and reuse policy. All this with a view to a more sustainable future and the improvement of the working and living conditions of affected communities in the extractivist and ICT production sector.

 

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for two ESC (European Solidarity Corps) volunteers to support the CATAPA movement, and in particular the campaigns about fair ICT. The volunteer will be trained to think critically and spread knowledge of these issues and to encourage other young people to become active EU citizens. The tasks are flexible depending on your learning goals and the needs of the organisation.

You will mainly be working in our office team (4 part-time staff + 2 ESC volunteers + variable number of interns) which supports the work of the movement. Since CATAPA is a volunteer movement, you will be working in close collaboration with motivated and enthusiastic volunteers.

Possible tasks

Campaigning and Education

  • Take part in our Changemakers programme
  • Organise awareness raising and training activities for a variety of target groups (training weekends, documentary screenings, workshops, info evenings, public actions…)
  • Develop educational tools and manuals
  • Help out with organising our International Speakers Tour: Open Min(e)d
  • Write, revise and proofread articles, educational tools and research reports
  • Participate actively in meetings of the Education working group
  • Possibility to do research linked to mining and/or the ICT supply chain
  • Some administrative tasks related to the daily functioning of our office with the possibility to get an insight in the management of a non-profit organisation
  • Contribute to the functioning of the movement
  • Possibility to develop and implement your own projects

Communication

  • Take part in our Changemakers programme
  • Write, review and proofread articles
  • Design promotional material such as flyers and posters
  • Assist in managing CATAPA’s social media channels (Facebook page, Instagram account and Twitter)
  • Assist in managing and keeping CATAPA’s website updated
  • Ensure CATAPA’s house style (layout) is up to date and implemented
  • Participate actively in meetings of the Communication working group
  • Create and lead communication and promotion strategies for events
  • Assist in the organisation of various activities: our International Speakers Tour ‘Open Min(e)d’, training weekends, public actions, info-evenings, documentary festival…
  • Some administrative tasks related to the daily functioning of our office with the possibility to get an insight in the management of a non-profit organisation
  • Contribute to the functioning of the movement
  • Possibility to develop and implement your own projects

Requirements

Campaigning and Education

Essential

  • Interest in learning about the social and environmental movement and mining issues
  • Good command of English
  • Independent, proactive worker
  • Motivated to work with volunteers
  • Take your own initiative
  • Good communication skills
  • Will to contribute to positive change in the world we live in
  • Team player with a flexible attitude and plenty of humour
  • Age: below 31 years

Desirable

  • Knowledge/experience on or interest to learn about:
    ○ Circular and degrowth economy, environmental movements and/or international development
    ○ Developing educational material (e.g. workshops)
    ○ Organizing events
    ○ Project management and volunteer management
    ○ Designing promotional material
  • Good knowledge of either Dutch or Spanish

Communication

Essential

  • Interest in learning about the social and environmental movement and mining issues
  • Good command of English
  • Independent, proactive worker
  • Motivated to work with volunteers
  • Take your own initiative
  • Good communication skills
  • Will to contribute to positive change in the world we live in
  • Team player with a flexible attitude and plenty of humour
  • Age: below 31 years

Desirable

  • Knowledge/experience on or interest to learn about:
    ○ Circular and degrowth economy, environmental movements and/or international development
    ○ Volunteer management
    ○ Communication strategies
    ○ Design and layouting
    ○ Managing social media and websites
  • Good knowledge of either Dutch or Spanish

What do we offer?

● A warm welcome in our movement with plenty of learning opportunities and new connections
● A young, motivated team of employees and volunteers
● A monthly fee of (at least) 707* Euros to cover accommodation and daily expenses
● One language course (Dutch, English or Spanish)

This call is part of the European Solidarity Corps. It’s a European Union initiative which creates opportunities for young people to volunteer in projects abroad. This means Belgian people can’t apply for this vacancy. Expenses of the volunteers are paid. Accommodation, food and daily expenses are covered by a fee of 707* EUR which you can use according to your own needs and wishes. One language course (Dutch, English or Spanish) is covered by CATAPA, as well as work-related transport.

 

Interested or more information?

Please send your CV and motivation letter to info@catapa.be before the 28th of July 2019. If you have any questions concerning this vacancy, don’t hesitate to email truike.geerts@catapa.be or call +32 477845729.

( *: depending on final project grants)

From the polls to the tribunal: The farmers of Cajamarca suing mining multinational Angolgold Ashanti

Karlijn Van den Broeck | Colombia, Mining, News

From the polls to the tribunal: The farmers of Cajamarca suing mining multinational Angolgold Ashanti

Cajamarca, Colombia
Karlijn Van den Broek, 5 June 2019

The farming community that voted out multinational Anglogold Ashanti of their territory two years ago, is now taking the fight to court.

In March 2017, the people of Cajamarca voted against mining in their region in a Consulta Popular (popular referendum). Two years later the same community is going to court to continue their fight for Anglogold Ashanti still owns various mining concessions in the region. And to ensure their absence for once and for all, the farmers are suing the company and the National Mining Agency to nullify the still existing mining concessions.

In Cajamarca, all seems quiet and peaceful. Farmers on the hill work their land, no machinery involved. It is a hard job, but they would not trade it for the world. The fertile soil of Cajamarca makes it a very rewarding region for farming: ‘Anything grows in Cajamarca.’

Looking over Cajamarca, the impressive waterfall Chorros Blancos provides water for the citizens of the village center. Many other small water springs guarantee water to the farming families’ right to their land. The Wax Palms Forest and the Machin Volcano in Toche guard Cajamarca on the one side, and on the other side the Páramo of Anaime can be found. If you ask the citizens, they will tell you they are proud to live in Cajamarca, that this land is incredibly beautiful and precious. And any visitor would have to agree with them.

However, the people of Cajamarca have struggled a lot to get where they are today. From the beginning of the settlement, violence has been brought to the region, from colonization to the period of violencia and later the armed conflict. When after hundreds of years of war, Colombia, and thus Cajamarca, was finally beginning a new era of ‘peace’, it was only for a short time until a new threat arrived in Cajamarca: Extractivism.

More than ten years ago, the Colombian government gave mining concessions to the South-African gold mining multinational Anglogold Ashanti, who with their La Colosa mining project would open the biggest open pit mine in Latin America.

The village however, came together to defend their farming lands, their precious water sources and the future of their children. On the 26th of March 2017, Cajamarca organised a Consulta Popular, a binding mechanism of public participation stated by the Colombian constitution, where 98% of voters voted against mega mining in their territories.

The result of the Consulta Popular, a Cajamarca free of mining activities, was later established in a municipal agreement.

The decision of the people of Cajamarca is legally binding and thus has to be respected by both the multinational as the national government.

However, the National Mining Agency of Colombia has continued administrative actions regarding the existing mining concessions, without consulting nor informing the community.

There are still three current mining concessions in the municipality of Cajamarca. Therefore, the decision of the people of Cajamarca has neither been respected nor implemented until now.

The farmers of Cajamarca are demanding the nullification of the three current mining concessions in the municipality. They invoke the legal principle of objeto illicit sobreviniente: the mining concessions have to cease to exist since they are incompatible with the choice of the community of Cajamarca to prohibit mining. Following Colombian law, a contract needs to have an object that complies with the legal and constitutional requirements. The subject of the mining concessions is illicit and impossible to accomplish. The subject was licit when the concessions were granted, yet, after the consulta popular, it is no longer the case.

With the legal action the farmers of Cajamarca hope to finally achieve the full respect and execution of the decision that the community took in March, 2017, prohibiting mining in their region.

Suing a multinational is not for the light hearted. In Colombia, environmental defenders that are struggling to remain in their lands despite of corporate interests, have been the target of threats, human rights violations and killings. Moreover, the legal road is always a very long and tiring one. Nevertheless, the community of Cajamarca knows what they want: A healthy and thriving farming community, with clean waters and lush mountains. This court case, just like the countless manifestations and the consulta popular before them, is the people of Cajamarca shouting:

“El Agua vale mas que el oro, Anglogold Ashanti Fuera del Pais”

Official communiqué to the public opinion legal action defending the ‘consulta popular’ of Cajamarca

Laura Garcia | Colombia, Consulta popular, Mining, News

Official communiqué to the public opinion legal action defending the 'consulta popular' of Cajamarca

Today, Wednesday the 5th of June 2019, the corporation ‘Cajamarca Despensa Hídrica y Agrícola’, promotor of the Consulta Popular in Cajamarca, represented by the Center of Studies for Social Justice ‘Tierra Digna’, filed an absolute nullity claim against the National Mining Agency of Colombia and the company Anglo Gold Ashanti before the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to declare the nullity of (3) three mining concession contracts registered in 2007, which are still in force in the region of Cajamarca. The concessions should be nullified on the ground of violating the superior mandate expressed through the Consulta Popular (Popular Referendum) of the 26th of March 2017, in which 97% of the citizens of Cajamarca prohibited mining activities in their territory.

At the time the mining concession contracts were signed it was licit to explore and exploit minerals in Cajamarca. However, this legal landscape changed due to the incorporation of a new rule to the legal system, namely the Consulta Popular, which transformed a former lawful action (to explore and exploit minerals) to unlawful. Consequently, there should not be any mining contracts in Cajamarca at present.

The Consulta Popular of Cajamarca was a citizen initiative, in which the community, using their democratic rights, mobilized for the protection of its sovereignty and peasant life. The Consulta Popular complied with all the legal and constitutional requirements, it is now definite and, therefore, its results have mandatory effects. This legal action should be understood as the coming together of the struggles of the peasants of Cajamarca in defense of their land, but also as the beginning of a new phase that seeks to recognize the legal effects of the implementation of Consultas Populares that have been made throughout the country.

Download the document here.


The irresponsibility of Vale has led to a second big mining disaster in Brazil

Youssef Bouarada | Disaster, Mining, News

The irresponsibility of Vale has led to a second big mining disaster in Brazil

Youssef Bouarada, 27 February 2019

On January 25th, a catastrophic failure of a tailings dam in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais, in Brazil led to a human and environmental disaster that cost the lives of 166 individuals and the release of millions of cubic meters of tailings into the environment.

 

This disaster was simply a result of an ongoing race to the bottom that encourages mining companies to turn a blind eye to safety and hazard standards and it has to stop right now!

Before digging into the subject, we wish to join all our partners and all the community beyond to pay our grievances to the 166 deaths and our thoughts and prayers to the people that are still missing, hoping that this tragedy won’t be repeated.

Again, this race to the bottom must be immediately halted. We are, more than ever before, convinced that business-as-usual practices are not effective when it comes to reaching the ideal of zero harm in regards with mining activities. This ideal is stressed by the mining sector in their own sustainability practices and commitments reports. And Vale was one of the companies that committed to this goal.

The tragedy of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh sparked the will to change when it came to rising the standards related to safety in the work environment to an acceptable level. This desire of change was rightfully met by the civil society components who worked conjointly with private companies to ensure the enforcement of hazard and safety standards. This is a good example of possible positive cooperation between corporations and civil society in order to commonly operate a shift to better practices in the business environment. It must be applied to the mining sector.

Brumadinho, Mount Polley (Canada, 2014), Samarco (Brazil, 2015) and many other tragedies have common causes and parameters. Yet, no real critical self-questioning was raised within the dominant actors from the mining industry. The Canadian center of Alternative policies already warned right after the Mount Polley accident that if nothing changes, we can expect tragedies occurring at a rate of two disasters per decade.

The disaster of Brumadinho in Brazil was not the first of its kind, not in the world, not even in Brazil. Vale had received 11 fines in the last 8 years that can be summed up to more than 102 million euros, and this concerns only the site of Brumadinho. Therefore, the model of open tailing dams placed on high slopes is not sustainable from any perspective. Up to this day, Vale haven’t paid a single cent of this amount.

The accident of Samarco that contaminated the Rio Doce in 2015 is another example of the attempt to get away with impunity. Vale claimed that there were no funds available for the cleanup. In this case, Brazilian justice showed teeth by freezing their assets and obliged them to commit to paying 8 million US dollars. This kind of strong leadership must be translated into concrete action to achieve better commitments and implementation of norms governing safety and hazard. Eventually, a convergence of national arsenals of laws must set new, more rigorous norms around the world and within the different branches of power. Legislators and executors must look up to the Brazilian independent judicial power as an example of ending corporate impunity.

Therefore, something has to change regarding the regulations and the practices.

This change has to be radical. Companies like Vale must be held entirely accountable for the mess that hey caused and pay the entire bill for cleaning it. In the Canadian case, the Province of British-Colombia paid back Imperial Metals, the responsible company, 23 million Canadian dollars -from Taxpayers money, the same people that suffered the tragedy- as a form of fiscal incentives after cleaning. Gaming the system that way is definitely a barrier to the effectiveness of a new, socially and environmentally responsible mining regime. Brazilian justice has to shimmer the example. This is going the right way since the public prosecutor of Minas Gerais threatened to seize the equipment of Vale in the scenario of nonpayment of fines.

The reaction to Mount Polley disaster by the provincial government of British Columbia in Canada was the concretization of the adage “One step forward then two steps backwards”. Although the government had implemented 20 out of the 27 measures that appear in the Mount Polley guidelines, it had not insisted on the importance of carrying out independent inspections, therefore, no real change in the quality and integrity of the inspections was operated. This is not the way to go.

So, what needs to be done?

Firstly, stop developing networks of “expert agencies” that produce “counter expertise” with the sole goal of preventing any improvements when it comes to initiatives to enforce safety commitments. This is the ultimate demonstration of defiance and lack of courage from the mining industry to get behind the standards that regulate the safety of people and surroundings that rule every industry. Everyone must acknowledge that the pursuit of profit cannot be done at all costs.

Recognizing the recommendations of the Expert Independent Panel of Mount Polley, backed up by the UN environment report, is a red line that cannot be put under negotiation. Conversely, the reports issued by mining companies contain no trace of mentions of best available technology (BAT) and, therefore, they have weak commitments that cannot help to achieve the goal of zero harm. Although this is a key step for the mining industry to adopt better ethics.

Assuring independent inspections by third-party bodies that are paid for by companies is not negotiable either. In order to prevent such disasters from occurring again, we must end upstream tailing dams and come up with better studies to monitor suitability areas for waste storage with reinforced conditions, such as augmented distance from surrounding human settlements.

It is about time that everyone starts paying more attention to the voices that are rising from local communities expressing their concerns and warnings for years. Catapa had always joined efforts of warning against the bad impacts of tailing dams located near human settlements and on high slopes.

Undoubtably, there’s the crucial need of developing a coherent disaster management system and emergency response schemes to provide those who were struck by similar tragedies with immediate medical assistance. And in order to achieve this, companies must rebuild livelihood resilience and provide fair compensations for the damaged ecosystem.

Finally, assisting the ones who lost their families with moral and financial support during their period of mourning and grievance is necessary.

Satellite images and pictures displaying the valley around the mining site before (Antes) and after (depois) the Dam failure. Source: UOL Noticias.

Satellite images displaying the mining site before (Antes) and after (depois) the Dam failure. Source: UOL Noticias.

Mirtha Vasquez visits CATAPA

Alienor de Sas | News, News, Peru, Peru

Mirtha Vasquez visits CATAPA to discuss the issues that 'defensoras' face

17 January 2018

This week Mirtha Vasquez visited CATAPA. She is the director of GRUFIDES and the lawyer for famous environmentalist Maxima Acuña and is based in Peru. The purpose of her visit was to lobby and raise awareness for the Defensoras in Peru and Latin America through public events and a meeting at the EU. The visit laid the groundwork for a very exciting week here at CATAPA.

On Tuesday there was an event at the Pianofabriek in Brussels called Women, gender equality, climate justice: a case for Defensoras. Besides Mirtha Vasquez, Amelia Alva Arevalo who is a researcher at University of Ghent spoke of her current research that focuses on the implementation and exercise of the prior consultation of indigenous peoples in the Andean Countries. In June-July 2017, she was on an observation mission to El Salvador on human rights violations towards Defensoras. Furthermore, Nicky Broekhoven spoke about her research that is coming from a legal perspective and focuses on gender equality, women’s rights, and environment. She is also a volunteer at the Gender and Human Rights division of Amnesty International, and advocates for a mainstreaming of gender in questions regarding human rights. The event attracted a diverse and large audience and the Pianofabriek was filled to the brim. After the presentations there was also a Q & A session with all the speakers, leading to dynamic discussions about the issues that WHRDs face.

The lawyer and director of Grufides, Mirtha Vásquez, gives a lecture during a public event organized by CATAPA in Brussels. Photography by Alienor de Sas (All rights reserved)

On Wednesday there was an event at the European Parliament aimed at raising awareness on the precarious situation of women environmental activists in Latin-America. Mirtha Vasquez did a presentation together with Dr. Clara Burbano-Herrera (University of Ghent). The presentations contained recommendations for the EU concerning the protection of HRDs and WHRDs in Latin America. Much interest was garnered from MEPs and NGOs with regards to how WHRDs can be protected, both within a legal framework and through attention garnered in various press publications. MEPs also asked questions about how they could include issues discussed in the presentation within free trade agreements (FTAs) and how they should be framed in an inclusive manner.

Following the presentations of Mirtha Vasquez and Dr. Clara Burbano-Herrera there was presentations from both Florent Marcellesi (MEP Greens/EFA), Rapporteur for Opinion, and  Jordi Solé (MEP Greens/EFA), member of AFET and BUDG. The presentations were concerning the protection that the EU give HRDs and how their new strategies are supported by the budget. At the request of the various civil society organisations present they elaborated further on the real life impact of the EUs commitments. It was indeed very interesting to hear about similar issues coming from both the EU and individuals affected by their policies.

Charlotte Christiaens, activities coordinator of  CATAPA and Mirtha Vásquez,  during her intervention in the European Parliament. Photography by Alienor de Sas (All rights reserved)

Of course there was also time for an internal meeting with Mirtha Vasquez and the catapistas to discuss the current situation in Peru and future collaborations.

It was a great pleasure to have her as a guest here at CATAPA and we are very glad that so many people showed interest in listening to her description about the current problems with the mining industry and WHRDs in Peru.

Mirtha Vásquez and Laura Lucio rapport of EU resolution

Alienor de Sas | Women, News, News, Peru, Peru, Women

The European Parliament approves resolution on “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Justice”

Mirtha Vásquez (GRUFIDES), Laura Lucio (ESF)

25 January 2018

The European Union (EU) has been concerned with the issues regarding the safety of human rights defenders (HRDs) for some time. In recent years HRDs has been victims of serious attacks by individuals or companies when trying to defend their territories against large projects with massive investments. There has been incidents where people have been attacked, assassinated in conjunction with various other human rights violations. Recently new light has been shed on the particular risk that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are exposed to.

Due to such observations the EU has implemented new measures to not only protect HRDs, but also to minimize the impacts of the large projects has on the population and their territories. The EU recognized that the protection of various ecosystems and the environment is a fundamental aspect when facing increasing risks of global climate change.

Hence, parliamentary members from the green european parties presented a draft resolution on “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change”. In order to highlight the importance of the initiative they invited Latin-American environmental defenders such as Mirtha Vásquez to speak. Mirtha Vásquez is mainly concerned with defending community rights in Peru and is a member of the Latin-American network of women earth and human rights defenders. She spoke about the importance of women in the struggle of environmental defence, and about the asymmetrical impact felt by women. This situation has been drastically intensified in light of recent years climate change context.

On January the 16th 2018 the European Parliament approved of this resolution. It establishes different principles that could strengthen the resilience of women and the protection of their human rights. The resolution has many objectives regarding the improvement of women’s role in decision-making processes. This mainly concerns processes regarding climate and environmental issues. Such advances could be an important catalyst for the inclusion of human and eco-territorial rights in the process of decision-making at the local level. It particularly affects the management of natural resources, the environment and the prioritization of rural sustainable development policies at the national level in order to tackle the extractivist model.

Furthermore, the resolution emphasizes the necessity of strengthening the right of access to land and ownership  by women as an important measure to guarantee gender empowerment. It can be an important mechanism that enables communities to preserve their traditional territories that are currently endangered by extractive industries. Extractive industries are generally regarded as one of the central causes of climate change and environmental degradation.

Given the relation between extractive industries and climate change we believe that the intervention and protection of WHRDs is fundamental. We would like to thank and celebrate this progress that, above all, recognizes women as active agents in the defense of their territory, with regards to the mitigation and adaptation necessary in order to face new climate risks.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of CATAPA and can under no circumstance be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union