“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being…” – World Health Organization
The health tribunal used community testimony, scientific research and human rights organization’s knowledge to examine how the presence of Goldcorp’s mining operations have affected community residents. Over 600 people were in attendance from across Guatemala, as well as Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Canada, and the USA.
click on thumbnails below for larger view. you can use your arrow keys to move from photo to photo:
For more information about the Health Tribunal, see: http://healthtribunal.org
Read the final verdict
Here is a multimedia piece I made in San Miguel Ixtahuacan a few years ago outlining some of the struggles the community has been going through:
Toronto 8/6/12 – Grassy Narrows people, accompanied by hundreds of supporters, deployed 15,000 square feet of blue fabric in the streets of Toronto to create a wild river flowing to Queen’s Park, where they will demand long overdue justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests on which they depend. Fifty years after Ontario began allowing 10 tonnes of toxic mercury to be dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river, the McGuinty Government still refuses to acknowledge even one case of methyl mercury poisoning, known as Minamata Disease. A newly translated report by renowned Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada, released on Monday, found that “[i]t is an undoubtable fact that Minamata disease occurred in [Grassy Narrows and Whitedog], based on our long-term investigation result.”
“Our people are still suffering from this poison in the water, but most receive no support from the government,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister, “all people diagnosed by the Japanese experts must be fully compensated, and the government must respect our decisions on our territory so that we can recover from the devastating impacts of mercury pollution on our health, our culture, and our livelihood.”
“The government and industry take away our forests and give us back disease and sickness and death,” said Judy Da Silva, a Grassy Narrows mother. “If McGuinty stood in our shoes he would understand why we say ‘no’ to the pollution and industrial logging of our homeland.”
Grassy Narrows, and their supporters, are demanding from government:
RESPONSIBILITY: Acknowledge mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows, apologize, and accept responsibility to fix what was broken.
SAFETY: Fund a permanent Grassy Narrows run environmental health monitoring center. Strengthen the Health Canada mercury safety guideline to protect all people.
COMPENSATION: Compensate all people diagnosed by the Japanese doctors, and retroactively index the compensation to inflation.
RESTORATION: Clean and restore the English-Wabigoon river system. Stop the mills from polluting the water and air.
JUSTICE: Restore Grassy Narrows control over Grassy Narrows Territory. End destructive industrial logging on Grassy Narrows Territory.
For more information go to: FreeGrassy.org
26/04/12 – While Goldcorp held their Annual General Meeting in Timmins, Ontario, about thirty solidarity activists gathered outside Goldcorp’s offices in Toronto. They said they wanted to make sure people hear about Goldcorp’s shameful human rights and environmental record at its mine sites, particularly the Marlin Mine in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, Guatemala.
Organized by Amnesty International Toronto Office, Breaking the Silence Toronto, CAMIGUAm and the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, the activists brought newspapers with headlines that don’t usually get printed, featuring messages from Mayan communities surrounding the Marlin Mine.
This video below provides some background to explain why indigenous residents of San Marcos, Guatemala, are speaking out against Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine (Watch in High Definition on VIMEO):
More photos from the Goldcorp AGM Protest:
06.03.2012 – A large and diverse group of over a hundred people gathered outside the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) Convention today.
Leading the protests was a group of community representatives from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. KI Councilors are rallying with hundreds of supporters while members of the remote Indigenous Nation mobilize on the ground to prevent mining exploration company Gods Lake Resources (GLR) from desecrating sacred burials on KI Homeland.
“We are mobilized to go to Sherman Lake to protect our land. I cannot allow our graves to be desecrated by a company that is hiring private security to trespass on our Homeland by force. That is no way to do business,” said Chief Morris.
On Sunday the Ontario government unilaterally withdrew 23,181 sq km of land in KI Homeland from mining exploration in response to KI’s longstanding decision to place a full moratorium on industry in KI’s Indigenous Homeland. However, the claims and leases at the heart of KI’s conflict with GLR are unaffected by ON’s move and the dispute over protection of burial sites and sacred landscape remains unresolved.
The MNDM has indicated that GLR intends to access the site this month, and refuses to answer whether GLR is on the land today. KI Chief Morris said in a Feb. 16 youtube video that his community was mobilizing and he feared that the situation would escalate. In a March 1 news release GLR indicated that they are looking to hire private security for their drill program – a potentially explosive move. A KI team is traveling to the Sherman Lake site today to conduct reconnaissance.
Kanawayandan D’aaki – Protecting Our Land
Below is a short video I made recently in collaboration with KI’s Lands and Environment Unit:
The PDAC protest also featured fashionistas from the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) who gathered to denounce and ridicule the Canadian mining sector outside of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention today. Walking down an impromptu catwalk in front of the Metro Toronto Convention Center, the protestors showcased “mining company must-haves” like a PR filter for everyday green-washing, cute pandas for controversial pipelines, and a 77 million dollar pacifier for Pacific Rim. The outfits satirized the superficial public relations stunts of the mining industry at home and abroad, while bringing attention to the community rights and basic human rights that are violated by these same companies.
This week, PDAC has been the target for many concerned groups including the Congolese-Canadians, the Ngapuhi Indigenous community from New Zealand, as well as KI. MISN supports communities directly impacted by Canada’s mining industry. “It’s time for Canadian legislation with teeth to hold Canadian corporations accountable locally and abroad and bring an end to weak voluntary regulation,” said Flynn, a member of Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.
Speeches from the protest (Unedited) Part 1/2
Speakers: Cecelia Begg – KI Councilor; Syed Hussan – Toronto KI Solidarity Group; Randy Nanokeesic – KI Counsilor; Syd Ryan – Ontario Federation of Labour;
Speeches from the protest (Unedited) Part 2/2
Speakers: Maryam Adrangi – Council of Canadians; Ramsey Hart – MiningWatch Canada; Steven Chapman – KI Lands & Environment Unit; Syed Hussan – Toronto KI Solidarity Group; Bob Lovelace – retired co-Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin; Richard Anderson – KI Lands & Environment Unit
Please contact me for high res images, audio, and video at:
For more information on KI, please contact:
David Sone: 647-386-1481
For more information on MISN, please contact:
Susana Caxaj: 416-839-8467
Photos from today:
I haven’t been doing a very good job at keeping this blog updated. I have several projects on the go right now, so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a review of everything I have been working on for the past few months. I am working on editing these projects into multimedia pieces, and it might be a little while before some of them are finished. But this will give you an idea of what to look out for in the coming months.
COP16 – Mexico
December 2010, I was working with the Indigenous Environmental Network as part of their media team at the United Nations Climate Summit in Cancun Mexico. So the beginning of 2011 was spent editing photos and video from the conference, and protests surrounding the conference.
Here is a selection of some of my photos from COP16:
Here is the video I put together covering the COP16, featuring members of the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation explaining why they came:
Mining Injustice Solidarity in Toronto
In the spring of 2011 I was involved in two international mining conferences in Toronto. The Mining Injustice Conference: Confronting Corporate Impunity, was organized by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and brought together front-line activists from impacted communities to share their experiences regarding the impacts of Canadian mining around the world.
The Ecumenical Conference on Mining brought together church leaders from around the world to discuss the impacts of Canadian mining on their communities. I am currently working on a video with KAIROS, addressing some of the topics discussed at the Ecumenical Conference on Mining, the video will be hopefully be released within the next month.
Here is aseries of large posters I made for both of these conferences:
Video of human rights protests outside Barrick Gold AGM:
South March Highlands
During the summer of 2011, I was invited to work on a project with Daniel Amikwabe Bernard, of the Algonquin Amikwabe Beaver Nation. Daniel has devoted his life to saving the South March Highlands in Ottawa from further desecration and development. The South March Highlands are sacred to the Algonquin people, but large parts of this urban forest is being torn down to make way for urban sprawl and housing developments. I am working on a short film about this forest and it’s historical and spiritual significance to the Algonquin people – featuring interviews with the late Grandfather William Commanda, Bob Lovelace, Paula Sherman, Mireille Lapointe, Nicole Lovelace, Robert Bateman, and Albert Dumont. I’m still in the early stages of editing this piece, but hope to have this one ready for spring 2012.
Here is a small selection of some of the photos from this project:
Oxfam Trailwalker 2011
Oxfam Trailwalker has evolved from a gruelling military exercise into a truly global movement that effects real change in the lives of millions of people living in abject poverty. It’s more than just a fitness challenge, Oxfam Trailwalker is a commitment to change the world, one step at a time. Teams of four commit to not only raising funds, but also hiking a gruelling 100km in 48 hours. The money raised from this fundraising event helps support Oxfam Canada’s initiatives all over the world. Specifically, Oxfam Canada is dedicated to supporting long-term development, advocacy, and emergency programs in 28 countries, and also provides emergency support during humanitarian crises.
“The climate has changed. There is no water here, nothing. Our land is dying and so are we” Ngorbob elders.
Ngorbob is a small Masai village near Arusha, Tanzania. Ngorbob has been severely hit by drought in recent months. They have not seen rain for over a year, and as a result their farmlands and livestock are dying. Many of the residents of Ngorbob have already been forced to leave their ancestral home in search of water and work.
I am still working on editing this photoessay which will soon be published in Tanzania by the Norwegian Church Aid.
Mining In Tanzania
While I was in Tanzania I had the chance to continue the work I had started in 2008. I’m working now on updating the photoessay from 2008, which will hopefully be online in a couple of weeks, and will also be putting together a video on this. Here is a selection of some new images on mining in Tanzania:
Village Community Banking
“My life and family has changed, but the whole community has benefitted too because if you educate a woman – one lady – you are educating the whole community.” – Hadija, VICOBA member in Lushoto, Tanzania.
In Tanzania, Village Community Banking (VICOBA) provides a structure through which communities are able to organize themselves, provide skill-sharing, and capacity building in an effort to combat poverty. Inspired by Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, the idea behind VICOBA is the belief that poor people have the skills, capabilities and abilities to improve their own economic development and social welfare.
In a field that is increasingly becoming dominated by corporate models of development, these stories provide examples of alternative models that are based on the dignity and ingenuity of the people. These women-led initiatives empower communities to find local solutions to their own local problems. These often-untold stories of community role models transforming their own communities are at the heart of a stronger, more inclusive, healthier and more socially just model of international development.
This is another work in progress for me, putting together a photoessay which will be published in Tanzania by the Norwegian Church Aid, as well as producing a short film about VICOBA.
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) has governed and cared for their Indigenous homeland, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aaki, since time before memory. In 2008, KI’s Chief and five community leaders were jailed for refusing to allow mining exploration which threatened KI’s water supply. The remote First Nation community succeeded in fighting off mining exploration by Platinex Inc. But now other companies are staking claims within KI territory. KI’s pristine waters, their sacred landscape, and the lake trout they rely upon are at risk. KI has a vision for the future of their lands and environment that benefits all life.
Here is a short film I made in collaboration with KI’s Lands & Environment Unit, Kanawayandan D’aaki: Protecting Our Land
Here is a selection of some of my photos from KI, featuring an aerial view of their expansive Indigenous homeland, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Aaki.
So that wraps up what I have been working on for the past few months. Most of these projects are still not completed yet, so I am working on multiple projects simultaneously which is why I’m taking so long with these. In the meantime I also have to spend some time updating this website. Apologies to those of you waiting patiently for these videos/photoessays, I’m getting there…
Here is a another peek at some of my recent photos from Tanzania. These are from a project I was working on with the Norwegian Church Aid about Village Community Banking. I’m in the process of editing the photos and writing up the stories right now, the final report should be ready shortly.
“VICOBA is structured in such a way that poor people, especially those in the rural areas, are organized in groups and trained in various skills so as to build up their capacity to fight against poverty. VICOBA holds a strong belief that even poor people have skills, capabilities and abilities which when unleashed and utilized effectively can help them to attain and improve their economic development and social welfare.” – VICOBA.org
You can see some more samples from this VICOBA project here
I’m in Tanzania right now working on a few different projects with the Norwegian Church Aid.
Here is a small selection of images from my time here so far. These are from a photoessay I am putting together about VICOBA – Village Community Banking.
“VICOBA is structured in such a way that poor people, especially those in the rural areas, are organized in groups and trained in various skills so as to build up their capacity to fight against poverty. VICOBA holds a strong belief that even poor people have skills, capabilities and abilities which when unleashed and utilized effectively can help them to attain and improve their economic development and social welfare.” – VICOBA.org
I’ll be posting more when I get the chance, with more photos and more information about VICOBA and the beautiful people making it all happen.
New Gold is a Canadian mining company operating gold and silver mines in the United States, Mexico, Australia. The company is also involved in projects and exploration in Canada and Chile. Shareholders were confronted by about 30 protestors at New Gold’s anual general meeting in Toronto. New Gold is accused of operating an illegal mine in Cerro San Pedro, Mexico. Also for its repeated and well documented human rights and environmental abuses in Mexico as well as violating indigenous self-determination at its joint venture project at Chile’s El Moro mine.
Click on thumbnails below for more photos:
For more information on campaigns to stop New Gold please visit:
Frente Amplio Opositor (Spanish/Español): http://faoantimsx.blogspot.com/
FAO Montreal (Inglés-Francés): http://faomontreal.wordpress.com/
Mining Watch Canada (Inglés-Francés): http://tinyurl.com/4ynk3qt
OCMAL (Spanish/Español) http://www.conflictosmineros.net/
Op-ed on caravan stop in Cerro San Pedro http://www.straight.com/article-362797/vancouver/andrea-hardendonahue-and-brent-patterson-caravan-cancun-climate-justice
February 8, 2011
SACRED FIRE BURNING AT QUEEN’S PARK FOR OTTAWA’S SOUTH MARCH HIGHLANDS
(Toronto) Daniel Amikwabe Bernard, Algonquin Firekeeper, is keeping a Sacred Fire burning at Queen’s Park from Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th February to urge the province to halt tree-clearing and to promote understanding about Ottawa’s most important ecological and cultural heritage areas.
The South March Highlands are one of the most bio-diverse areas remaining in urban Canada, with more than 675 different species of life, including 240 species of wildlife and over 134 different types of nesting birds.
For the past year local citizens, environmentalists and First Nations groups representing over 14,000 people have mounted a vigorous campaign to save undeveloped lands in the 10,000-year-old, ecologically unique, South March Highlands. In the 1970s it was protected as a Natural Environmental Area but urban development has steadily eroded it until less than 1/3rd remains protected. Citizens have actively opposed development since 1981 because the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest having the densest bio-diversity in Ottawa and provides critical habitat for 20 species-at-risk.
In the latest assault on the forest, KNL Developments recently began clear-cutting trees for a subdivision in an area known locally as the Beaver Pond Forest, even though development depends on planned water diversions without Environmental Assessment and a questionable archaeological study.
Starting Wednesday, a Sacred Fire will burn as a beacon of hope within the provincial capital to promote understanding and to request support from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, to issue a Ministerial Order to halt the clear-cutting, in light of the two independent archaeological reviews, and the discovery of potentially significant sites since the 2004 MTC approval.
In an unprecedented recognition of aboriginal religious practices by the Provincial Legislature, permission has been granted to keep the Sacred Fire burning day and night. The Sacred Fire is an altar for prayer and visitors are invited to approach respectfully and spend time with the Firekeeper to learn more about the South March Highlands and to discuss our relationship with Mother Earth.
On Sunday, February 13th, the Sacred Fire will go out at mid-day. There will be Closing ceremonies, with drumming, prayers, and singing, a message from Grandfather William Commanda, and from other First
Nations elders and chiefs. Everyone is invited to join with us regardless of religion, race, or culture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhSU5heJl5o (cultural and natural heritage video)
http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2011-01-13-SMH-1-SMH_Overview_v16.pdf (SMH Overview presentation)
Letters of Support (e.g. First Nations leaders, Grandfather William Commanda, David Suzuki Foundation, MP Gordon O’Connor,
MPP Norm Sterling) may be downloaded from http://www.renaud.ca/public/Letters_of_Support/
Dr. McGhee’s comments on the Archaeological Study http://www.renaud.ca/public/Archaeology/2010-08-06-
www.ottawasgreatforest.com (website for the Stewardship Plan to protect the SMH)
www.southmarchhighlands.ca (website for the Coalition to Protect the SMH)
Members of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) explain why they went to Cancun, Mexico, to show their opposition to false solutions being negotiated at the the Conference of the Parties 16 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. Produced by Praxis Pictures in collaboration with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to profile IEN’s RED ROAD mission at COP16. IEN is an environmental and economic justice network, based at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, in Northern Minnesota. Their work focuses on fighting to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from toxic contamination and corporate exploitation.
For more information:
Rough Cut. Sights and sounds from the streets of Cancun, Mexico, highlighting indigenous resistance to false solutions to climate change being pushed by wealthy nations and business interests. More to come…
Protests Inside and Outside COP-16 Climate Summit Expose the Corrupt COP Process, Uphold Cochabamba People’s Agreement as Path towards Real Solutions
Indigenous Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance march with thousands in Cancun to Demand Respect for Indigenous Rights and a Rejection of REDD
by Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, and the Indigenous Environmental Network Media Team.
Cancún, Q. Roo, Mexico, December 7, 2010 – As thousands of people marched today on the COP-16 climate summit to condemn the false solutions and backroom deals being pushed in the negotiations, solidarity actions unfolded in over 100 cities around the world. The march was organized by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest federation of peasant and smallholder farmers, and was the anchor action of the 1000 Cancúns Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.
The diverse array of social movement organizations, representing Indigenous peoples, small farmers, youth, communities impacted by the climate change to call for mobilizations and actions worldwide for climate solutions based in traditional Indigenous knowledge, community-based practices, human rights and the rights of nature.
Simultaneously, the press conference hosted by Global Justice Ecology Project and organized by La Via Campesina, Indigenous Environmental Network and Friends of the Earth International turned into a spontaneous action as speakers expressed anger over the direction of the climate talks in Cancún. Following the press conference, activists from Youth 4 Climate Justice and Grassroots Global Justice led the protest out of the climate talks.
Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project opened the press conference by evoking the name of Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member who took his life during mobilizations against the World Trade Organization here in 2003 wearing a sign saying “The WTO Kills Farmers.” “Then we were fighting against the World Trade Organization,” Petermann said. “Today we have to fight the World Carbon Trade Organization.”
Tom Goldtooth, the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network explained why so many people around the world were taking action. “It is clear that the false solutions offered at this COP-16 and previous COPs are being used to create markets and generate capital without regard to the fundamental concern for reducing emissions. The Cochabamba People’s Agreement remains a statement of the people of the world and against the commercialization of our climate, our air, our forests, our water and our very existence as humanity but it has been unilaterally deleted in the current negotiating text. As indigenous peoples, social movements and affected peoples we reject the carbon market mechanisms of REDD.”
Mari Rose Taruc of the Asia Pacific Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance described the situation facing her community of Richmond, California which lives in the shadow of a massive Chevron refinery. “Our communities are already dying from pollution. Unfortunately the UN process is focused on market based mechanisms that will allow companies like Chevron to buy offsets instead of reducing emissions at their source, creating more toxic hot spots in low income communities of color.”
Representatives of ALBA countries, Miguel Lovera, Chief Adviser of Paraguay and Paul Oquin of Nicaragua also expressed their solidarity with the people and condemned the moves of developed countries to avoid their historical responsibility and climate debt.
“We are here as young people from impacted communities to make sure that our voices are heard and respected,” said Kari Fulton, founding member of Youth 4 Climate Justice. Fulton continued, “Whether you live in the forest, whether you live in the hood, you will be impacted by false solutions. And REDD, REDD+, REDD++, is a false solution that will create a market in forests at the expense of human rights and the environment. We are here to say we want you to protect the Rights of Mother Earth and the voices of the people.”
Following the press conference, activists from Youth for Climate Justice and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance led a protest out of the press conference and onto the front stairs, where Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon spoke to the crowd and the gathered media.
Solon stated, “What is most important is the struggle of the people and their demands for real solutions to climate change… Every year, 300,000 people die because of natural disasters caused by climate change. This will grow to millions if we do not have, here, a real agreement, instead of a Cancun-hagen”.
The youth activists went on to loudly denounce the inaccessibility and unjust nature of the talks and express outrage over having been repeatedly denied permission to hold a youth delegation protest on the UN grounds. As the youth marched away, they were accosted by UN security, stripped of their badges, put onto buses and evicted from the climate conference.
Tom Goldtooth, Pablo Solon and other delegates were later able to make their way to join the thousands-strong People’s Assembly for Environmental and Climate Justice, held in the street less than two miles from the official climate conference.
(Click on Thumbnails to view more images of 1000 Cancúns Global Day of Action for Climate Justice)
From La Via Campesina:
The global forum “For Life, Environmental and Social Justice” has begun
(Cancún, 5 December 2010) One idea dominated the opening and first working day of the global forum “For Life, Environmental and Social Justice”, organized by La Via Campesina and its allies at their camp in Cancún: we must foil the carbon markets and the REDD programme which governments intend to legitimize at COP16.
The verdict is that the programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) doesn’t significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, although it does open the door to the privatization of land, and also rewards polluters, and threatens national sovereignty and the survival of indigenous communities.
Alberto Gómez Flores, representative of La Via Campesina for the North America region, said: “It’s a disgrace that the United Nations space intended to tackle climate change has been converted into a platform to legitimize the commercial strategies of transnational corporations.”
He added: “Multinationals benefit from an ever increasing number of compensating mechanisms for carbon capture, all of which are only new opportunities for them to grow and consolidate their control over water, land and seeds.”
“We denounce the false solution of carbon markets and the fact that numerous governments have reconciled themselves to it and don’t seek a compromise with their populations. Our task is to foil the carbon markets. This is why we came”, said Gomez.
As for Olegario Carrillo, he insisted in his welcoming message that “we must at least qualify as irresponsible, although many call it criminal, the attitude of those who support these schemes for the privatization-commercialization of the world, its forests and atmosphere, that only bring us closer to the brink every time.”
“From here we can see the thick smog of transnational interests hang above Cancún’s summit. Rich countries and their satellites try to confer legitimacy on false solutions like REDD,” added Carrillo, national leader of UNORCA.
“We have come here to denounce the governments of the world that intend to support these projects behind the backs of their populations,” said Magdiel Sánchez, from the National Liberation Movement.
“We have the same message: we don’t want the false solutions that COP16 stands for, we don’t want REDD, we don’t want them to carry on poisoning us with their lies and their false solutions. This is what we said and heard everywhere the caravans stopped, throughout their journey through this country where they bore witness to the environmental and social devastation of Mexico,” said Octavio Rosas Landa, from the National Assembly of Those Affected by the Environment.
“COP 16 only seeks to benefit as much as possible from the environmental crisis while people continue to fall ill and to die as a result of these corrupt policies and of the various activities of all these TNCs that are appropriating the air, water, land, forests, seeds, and all of the other common goods which make up the patrimony of humanity,” he added.
In this regard, Rosas Landa said that the programmes which the federal government is trying to implement in the country are a fiction, as they will address neither global warming nor the environmental crisis. On the subject of the REDD proposal, he explained that the federal government is trying to control the green areas, which affects the most vulnerable groups.
And so started the global forum “For Life, Environmental and Social Justice”, with the participation of about 1,500 people from over 80 organizations from Latin America and elsewhere, around 1,000 of whom travelled with the caravans through 17 states of the Republic of Mexico.
- Photos from December 5th at Via Campesina’s “March for Life, Environmental and Social Justice”
(Click on thumbnails for larger view)
(Cancun, December 4) With the COP16 UN Climate Conference already under way, La Via Campesina has organized an international caravan transporting people from all over Mexico to Cancun. “The sixth Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16) is already seen as a failure” stated Alberto Gomez from La Via Campesina international coordination, “that will affect the future of humanity, as its only result will be to strenghthen the intention of TNCs to divert money away from the climate crisis.”
“During the last moments of discussion, the proposals of the People’s Agreement signed in Cochabamba have been left aside. The trend is to favour carbon market and REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), this mechanism supports global privatisation of forests, jungles and territories.» explained Gomez.”
“It is to be stated that during the negotiating process preceeding Cancun, the interest of the TNCs have prevailed giving a strong impulsion to a financial system that will impose merchandisation of the climate.”
“We do not agree with false solutions such as the carbon market because, far from reducing green house gases, it will sooner or later create a speculative system leading the world into another global financial crisis.”
“This is why La Via Campesina mobilises to denounce the irresponsibility of most of the governments who choose to support the capital rather than the interest of their nation and of humanity as a whole.” added Gómez.
“The international caravans will [started] on Sunday 28th. Their aim is to show up the Mexican government, pointing out the environmental and social devastation caused by state policies which are against the interest of the majority of the people.”
“In the camp set up by La Via Campesina in Cancun from December 2nd, various activites will be organised to denounce these policies and we ask all participants to put pressure on the Summit to adopt efficient measures against climate crisis such as those proposed in the People’s Agreement.”
“We declare that we, farmers, men and women, are necessary and useful to humanity. Our role is to produce food: we do it in a sustainable way and at the same time we cool down the planet. If we had at our disposal a different system to produce, distribute and consumme, we could end hunger and halt global warming.”
“Food sovereignty — concluded Gómez— is La Via Campesina’s alternative to capitalism which seeks to privatise even the air we breathe.”
The following photos were taken as the caravan approached Cancun. The plan was to stop at the Chichenitze Mayan pyramid, just outside the city, to hold a ceremony to celebrate their arrival. Delegates from the Indigenous Environmental Network were invited to participate in the ceremony. However, the caravan was not allowed to enter the pyramid, and ancient spiritual site for Mayan peoples which has since been transformed into an exclusive tourist site where the hundreds of indigenous and peasant farmers were not welcome. The ceremony was moved to a nearby town square, but was no less moving for all present.
(Click on thumbnails to view images)
Cancun, Mexico – Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change whether they live on islands or in coastal areas, the Arctic, the deserts, urban areas forests or mountain regions, and their situation is dire. I’m in Cancun now working with the Indigenous Environmental Network, over the next two weeks I will be taking photos, producing videos, and co-producing our daily live webcast on RedRoadCancun.com. Here are some photos from our first few days as things are just getting started, to introduce a few members of the IEN team.
(Click on thumbnails to view images)
As Enbridge held its investors meeting in First Canadian Place, Environmental Justice Toronto entered the building and released a banner attached to helium balloons that read “Enbridge Invests in Oil Addiction.” The banner was visible through the glass front of the building, where activists held up another banner saying “Community Resistance is the Cure.”
On the outside, activists were chanting and handing out flyers which were made by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, in British Columbia, who are resisting Enbridge’s proposed $5 billion Gateway pipeline project. The Gateway project would move oil from the tar sands in northern Alberta to Kitimat, BC.
Enbridge has a long history of pipeline spills and other accidents, including a 1 million gallon spill of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, one of the largest spills in US history. According to the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council’s flyer, “the Gateway Pipeline risks damage to 785 watercourses, wildlife habitat and fragile salmon fisheries. The project route also crosses the territories of over 20 First Nations in BC.”
The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and other First Nations communities along the route are proposing “a community-lead process based on the minimum international standard of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent as ratified by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007.”
The Environmental Justice Toronto activists were calling on investors to support these reasonable proposals and demand a full disclosure of environmental and legal risks associated with construction of the Enbridge Gateway pipeline.
(click on thumbnails below to view images of the action, use arrow keys on keyboard to navigate through images)
From today’s G20 Gender Justice Rally:
More to come…
Other international delegates included:
FELICIANO ORELLANA: is a representative of the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Franciscan Family, in the Department of Jutiapa in eastern Guatemala. Employed by Goldcorp subsidiary Entre Mares in 1998 as one of the first employee, he later got hired in 2008 and suffered an almost Fatal accident on the job, for which he received no compensation. Now Feliciano is an active leader in his community and wants to share his experience on Goldcorp Human Rights Violations and the communities’ opposition to the Cerro Blanco Mine, Goldcorp’ second large mine in Guatemala.
CARLOS AMADOR: Carlos is a teacher and community leader in El Porvenir, 15 kilometers from Goldcorp’s open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold mine – the “San Martin” mine. Since 2000, Carlos has been educating and organizing local communities in the Siria Valley, and working to resist and demand justice for the health and environmental harms and human rights violations caused by Goldcorp’s mine.
JAVIER de LEON: Javier is a Mayan Mam community leader from the village of Maquivil, municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan, department of San Marcos. From his small home, he looks across at Goldcorp’s ever expanding open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold mine – the “Marlin” mine. Since 2004, Javier has been educating and organizing Mayan Mam communities and working to resist and demand justice for the health and environmental harms and human rights violations caused by Goldcorp’s mine.
NELY RIVERA DE SILVA: de Silva works with CEICOM, the Centre for Research on Investment and Commerce, an organization that does research and advocacy on the impacts of mining investment in El Salvador. At this time, Nely is deeply involved community organizing to prevent the second Goldcorp mine in Guatemala, that of Cerro Blanco, which is on the Guatemala/El Salvador border and threatens access to water and the contamination of water and the eco-system on both sides of the border.
DANIELA GUZMAN: Is the technical advisor working with the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous and Agricultural Community in Chile, in the Huasco Valley, the last unpolluted valley in the north of Chile. Since time immemorial Huascoaltinos have been the guardians of the life in the Huasco Valley and they want to protect their lands for future generations. Today, their culture is being severely threatened by mining companies such as Barrick, New Gold and Goldcorp.
In Honduras and Guatemala, Goldcorp’s mines are linked to widespread and well-documented heavy metal contamination and arsenic poisoning.
In Guatemala, Goldcorp has ignored referendums carried out by affected indigenous Mayan communities that have called for a halt to mining operations and expansion.
In Chile, Goldcorp is also violating the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and the right to self-determination of the Diaguita Huascoaltinos Indigenous community, who have rejected the mine consecutively in their assemblies since 2006 and who have their own development project, a nature reserve, which is being threatened by the unwelcome presence of Goldcorp and other mining companies within their ancestral lands.
In El Salvador, a mine project is facing growing resistance because it threatens the largest single source of water in the country.
Here in Canada, First Nations communities such as the Likhts’amisyu (Fireweed) Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have demanded that Goldcorp cease their activities as their water sources and right to full consent have not been protected.
Inside the AGM, a shareholders resolution was put forward calling on Goldcorp to “create and adopt, by September 1st, 2010, a corporate policy on the right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) for its operations impacting indigenous communities and all communities dependent on natural resources for survival.” The resolution was voted down.
Environmentalists have been targeted in Guatemala, and elsewhere, where mining has generated conflict. Examples of this include the attempted assassination of the Director of the Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action, Yuri Melini, in 2008, the murder of teacher and Mayan Qeqchi community leader, Adolfo Ich Chaman on September 27, 2009, and the murder of Walter Mendez, son or Arturo Mendez, the community leader who attended last year’s AGM, only six months before his son’s assassination. Additionally, three members of the Front in Defense of Natural Resources and People’s Rights (FRENA) have been assassinated since October of 2009. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights publicly condemned the murders of Guatemalan anti-mining activists on February 25, 2010.
Goldcorp incorporates language of “social license” into its policies but has no policy specifically on the right to FPIC. Through subsidiaries Entre Mares and Montana Exploradora, Goldcorp Inc. owns approximately 27 mining recognition, exploration and extraction licenses in Guatemala, many on lands owned or occupied by indigenous communities.
Here are some of the chants, from a chant sheet handed out by protestors:
Toxic poison and disease
Goldcorp is not what people need
Social conflict and corruption
Goldcorp only brings destruction
Clean up your mess
You bring distress
Leave people with less
Get off our lands
Blood is on your hands
Read the resolution
Enough with the illusions
We want justice
The people have spoken
The people united will never be defeated
La gente unida jamás será vencida
Goldcorp threatens Goldcorp kills
How much cyanide will they spill?
Goldcorp steals, Goldcorp lies
How many more will have to die?
For more information:
Indigenous representatives from Papua New Guinea and Chile traveled to Canada this week to speak at Barrick Gold’s annual shareholders meeting.
“Barrick has made it impossible for us to live on our traditional land. It is contaminated, unhealthy, we have no land left to grow our food and we are constantly targeted by the mine security,” explained Mark Ekepa, the chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association. “We want to be resettled as a community, but Barrick refuses to negotiate with us.”
More info on Barrick Gold: http://www.protestbarrick.net/article.php?id=590
To speak to Indigenous representatives contact Sakura Saunders: 647-838-8455, firstname.lastname@example.org
Within the Department of San Marcos, in the western highlands of Guatemala, the Marlin Mine is located along the border between the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa. These communities are largely composed of Indigenous Mayans who speak their traditional languages in addition to Spanish. 85% of the mine is located in San Miguel Ixtahacán, where the population is mostly Mam-Maya, one of the larger Mayan subgroups.Sipakapa is inhabited mostly by the Sipakapense, one of the smaller subgroups.
The Marlin Mine, which has both open-pit and underground operations, is fully owned by Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc., one of the world’s biggest gold companies. The mine is operated by Montana Exploradora, a subsidiary fully owned by Goldcorp. The Marlin Mine was the first project to be funded by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) after its Extractive Industries Review (EIR), in 2003, which sought to bring World Bank-funded projects in line with the institution’s “overarching mandate of poverty alleviation and sustainable development.” It was also the first project to be found not in compliance with these new World Bank standards.
According to the Canadian Social Investment Database, Goldcorp has the highest environmental fine total among mining companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) Composite Index. Goldcorp has been accused of having caused cyanide spikes, elevated levels of heavy metal contamination and acid mine drainage at its mines in Mexico, Honduras, Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Guatemala. In April 2008, Jantzi Research, an independent investment research association which analyzes the social and environmental performance of more than 300 Canadian companies, recommended not to invest in Goldcorp, citing the threats to safety and security, environmental impacts, growing opposition from local indigenous communities, and inadequate consultation with local communities. Guatemala has signed and ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which requires the State to consult affected indigenous communities, before they can approve any project, law, or decree that might affect them. Community members of both San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa claim that they were never consulted by either the Government or the company.
Rosalia stands on what used to be part of her farm until the mine expanded a single lane dirt road to accommodate large mining trucks. Rosalia’s family says it was never consulted or compensated for the loss of their land. When the company first arrived in the area, they carried out a series of presentations on the benefits of mining. The company claims to have held 74 meetings with people in San Miguel Ixtahuacán and Sipakapa. Those who attended the meetings were were asked to sign a list in exchange for a free lunch. Community members say that these lists were then used by Goldcorp to prove to the Government and the World Bank that they had consulted the local communities. “There was no dialogue and no consultation with the communities about the company coming here,” they say, “the public was not consulted. That is why we are very upset, because these people have money, they are millionaires, they can do what they want. They don’t care about our lives. We did what we could, but it didn’t make any difference. The old Mayor and Judge sided with the company for the money. So the people couldn’t defend their rights.”
“They say that they have brought a lot of change and development,” says Julian who lives in San Miguel Ixtahuacán . “But these are pure lies because we have not seen any development! If the company really cared about our development, we would be living in better conditions. Our houses would be nicer, and our roads would be paved. But they only pave the roads that they want to use. When they came, they promised to build houses, but the houses were never built. They even try to take credit for the few concrete houses there are in the village, but that is a lie! All the houses here built with concrete were made, because the families have members who have emigrated to the USA and are sending money back. All the rest of our houses are built of mud and wood, we know this because we built them with our own hands. We have to listen to their lies everyday, but they haven’t given us anything! So why are they telling all these lies?”
Candelaria stands outside her home directly below the mine in front of a bullet hole in her wall. Candelaria’s husband is currently working at a hotel for tourists in Cancun, Mexico, so that he can send money back for his family, who also lost some of its farm land to the road expansion. One night while the family was asleep, a vehicle drove past her home, and someone fired four gun shots at Candelaria’s house. “Before we all lived peacefully,” says Candelaria’s brother-in-law Victor, “one heard about violence, but in the capital, now the violence is here, among us—to the point of parents fighting with their children and brothers fighting each other. We are very worried, because we hear people saying: ‘we will kill or kidnap those who are against mining,’ and there are many killings and kidnappings, not only here but also in many other villages above the mine. We are living a life that is very difficult, and it will continue to get worse. And I think: who will defend us? What will we do?”
Community members of San Miguel Ixtahuacán gather inside their Church to see pictures from Father Erick’s recent trip to the USA. Father Erick’s trip included several cities accross the United States, so that he could visit peoples’ relatives who are working there, often undocumented, in order to support their families. “They said that we would benefit by getting jobs,” someone murmurs in the crowd, “so where are the jobs? If there are jobs here, why do so many of us have to leave our families and homes risking our lives for a few coins?” In addition to the United States, many people also emigrate to Mexico or to the coastal regions of Guatemala to work in the sugar plantations.
Yolanda lives in one of the houses surrounding the Marlin Mine. Over a hundred of these houses have suffered structural damage, including cracking walls and floors, since the mining activities began. The company denies any responsibility, but villagers believe the cracks are being caused by the daily dynamite explosions in the mine. A recent report put out by the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) concludes that “by a process of elimination, the most likely cause of the building damage is ground vibrations. There are no sources of vibrations in the area except those resulting from mine blasting and heavy truck traffic; therefore it is very highly likely that the damage in local villages is caused by the mining activity and associated truck traffic.”
“Our houses are falling apart!” says Irma standing in her crumbling bedroom, “I’m scared to be inside my house, because one day it can fall on top of us!” Goldcorp refuses to acknowledge any connection between their operations and the damage to the houses. At first they claimed that the cracks were caused by all the vehicles driving through the villiages. “We said that if it was a problem of vehicles,” recalls Irma, “only the vehicles from the company are heavy, and anyway the houses far away from the road would not be cracking too. Then they said it wasn’t the vehicles, but poor construction. We told them that if the problem was poor construction, then most of the houses in the whole country would be having the same problems, not just the ones next to their mine. Their stories keep changing, but they always refuse to accept any responsibility. They don’t even take our complaints seriously, they laugh at us. Once they even said it was being caused because we play our music too loud!”
Maria and her family had spent four years building themselves a new home. It was a moment of great pride, when they finally completed the construction. But three weeks later, they discovered that the cement floor had started to crack. At the moment it is only a hair-line crack, but Maria has seen some of the other homes that have much larger cracks, so she knows that it is only a matter of time. Everyday at noon and then again at midnight, the mine sets off dynamite explosions which cause the ground to shake like an earthquake. The family eventually decided to cut its losses and not move in, so the building remains empty and unused. “They are making us suffer,” says Maria, “we are not being treated as human beings.”
Like most large-scale gold mines, the extracted ore is processed using cyanide. The remaining waste material is then dumped in a tailings pond. Locals are very concerned about how the mine may be effecting both the quantity and the quality of their water supplies. The mine uses as much as 250,000 liters of water every hour of every day, which is roughly equivalent to what a Guatemalan family of 8 would use over the course of 25 years. Six to eight wells are reported to have dried up recently, although the company claims it obtains all its water either from what is recycled from the tailings pond or from deep underground sources which are not connected to the communities’ wells. Additional concerns include the possibility of the chemicals leaking out into the rivers or, even worse, that the dyke keeping all the waste in the pond may not be able to withstand the frequent earthquakes in the area. “This worries us,” says Victor, “because the tailings pond is above and we are here below it!”
“They told us the water is fine,” says Reyna as she does her laundry in the river with her brother Alex. “We don’t have any water at the house and our well has dried up, so we have to come down here.” Scientific studies by the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology (COPAE), have shown that the rivers below the tailings pond contain arsenic. “All mines contaminate,” says Alejandro from COPAE, “there are no examples of the mining industry not causing contamination anywhere in the world. Our studies demonstrate that the rivers below the mine are contaminated. The water is not suitable for consumption.” Despite the company’s claims that the water is safe, company employees refused when Freddy, one of the auxiliary mayors of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, challenged them to drink or bathe in the water themselves.
“Before,” remembers Teresa, “we used to plant gourds, beans, avocado, lemons, oranges, peaches and corn. But they are not the same anymore. Look at the avocado trees, they don’t have any fruit—they flower, but then the flowers fall off. And the life of the animals? Already it is sad. It is not the same as it was when I was growing up, it was healthy, you could eat everything. Now, what we eat and what we drink, these are contaminated.”
“The crops were much better before,” says Crisanta holding up some of the corn her family harvested this year, “but since the mine came, they don’t come out the same anymore. They do not grow properly now! We haven’t had a good harvest for about three years. Even the crops that we do harvest, we cannot sell. As soon as people find out that we are from San Miguel, they don’t want to buy from us because they say it’s all contaminated. ”
Eight-year old Lisandro has itchy rashes all over his body, which first appeared about four years ago when the mine started operations. “Before the mining company came, there weren’t so many health problems,” says Lisandro’s uncle Victor, “now there are many illnesses. When the mining company came, it brought us skin infections, stomach pains, illnesses like flu and also diarrhea in children and adults. They don’t tell us why this is happening. I think that it is because we are drinking the water, and we bathe in the river. This worries us a lot because, look—what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? Who will offer us a helping hand? Who will care for us? This is what worries us a lot. And later, not only this but also the conflicts, the violence, the kidnappings, before these didn’t happen.” “This is not a development project,” adds Miguel-Angel, who owns the local pharmacy, “this is a project of death! It’s a monster!”
“Since the company came we have diseases, before we didn’t have anything like this,” says Irma, whose daughter Yahira has similar itchy rashes all over her body. “Before the children were all healthy. Not any more! It is the mine’s fault! In the past everyone was healthy, but not anymore because of them. And then they insult us, saying that we get these rashes because we are dirty and don’t bathe! We are sad. They are scaring us! They are just scaring us! I want the mine to leave! They have come here and taken advantage of us. Here in San Miguel they are really taking advantage of us!”
“We were fine before, but now things aren’t as they used to be,” says Teresa, who has a mysterious growth below her left eye, “we are living a very difficult life — our crops, animals, everyone’s health is at risk, violence, kidnappings. We don’t count! We don’t know what will happen with us. It hurts, because we are human, we have feelings. These things never happened before the mine came here. They only think of their love of money and for that reason they are discriminating against us. But we hope in God that one day we can change their hearts, then they will not come to do so many things to us, because they will finally recognize us as human beings.”
In community meetings throughout San Miguel Ixtahuacán, residents are currently in the process of organizing a community referendum on mining. This referendum was inspired by the 2005 referendum in the neighboring municipality of Sipakapa. The results of the Sipakapa referendum speak for themselves; 2,502 eligible voters participated, which compares favorably to the 3,087 turnout for the federal elections. In total, 2,426 people voted against mining, 35 people voted for mining, 8 ballots were illegible, one was blank and 32 abstained. Of the 13 community assemblies held in Sipakapa, 11 rejected mining (unanimously in most cases), one supported the mine, and one abstained. In total, 98.5% of the participating population rejected mining. The company took legal action to have the referendum annulled. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that the referendum was legal, but not binding.
Sipakapa continues to refuse any payments from the company and resist continued attempts to expand the mine within their territory. Instead, the community proposed an alternative development project of their own in the form of a fair-trade organic coffee cooperative. In the summer of 2009, their coffee co-op finally got off the ground and participants, like Fausto and Pedro here, are now in the process of laying the groundwork for their future plantations. While the referendum was important in demonstrating the community’s unified opposition to the mine, it was also very important for them to be able to propose an alternative that was driven by the whole community themselves.
“Agriculture is our Art, it’s what we know” says Ovideo, “gold is of no value to us, but our land, our families, our culture — these are things that we value greatly.” The indigenous residents of both Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán know that their ancestors have lived on these lands for generations refining and passing down their knowledge of how to cultivate the land. What could be more sustainable than that? This group pictured here, including (left to right) Matilda, Jeffrey Jr, Jeffrey Sr, Bayron, and Raul, are planning the layout of their new coffee plantation in Sipakapa. They carefully measure out the distances between the points where they will plant each tree, taking all factors into account, including the slope of the hill, the direction of the sun, and the quality of the soil. “This is very difficult and complicated work, but we know how to take care of ourselves,” says Fidel, one of the organizers behind the organic coffee project, “that is why we, the people of Sipakapa, have said ‘No!’ to mining in our territory.”
As the people of both Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacán look on in horror at the Marlin Mine in their midst, many of them struggle to even comprehend the point of it all. “Who came up with the idea that gold should be worth so much anyway?” asks Alejandro, “it’s only a yellow stone that shines! Life should be more valuable than gold.” “I hope that everyone takes this information, listens to our stories, and tells our stories,” says Reyna, “we are only humble people but our exeriences are our own, they are real, no one understands our situation better than we do, but we want everyone to know what is happening to us in order to put international pressure on the authorities so that they think a little about the poor people, not only those who have money, but us who are ignored, humiliated, as though we are worth nothing. We also have rights, and we don’t want to continue suffering like this.”
From the Reclaim Power Protest in Copenhagen, Denmark, outside the COP15 Climate Conference on Wednesday 16 December. (more to come)
The Marlin Mine is a large scale gold mine located in the Department of San Marcos, in the western highlands of Guatemala. Operated by Montana Exploradora, a subsidiary of the Canadian corporation Goldcorp Inc.
But Montana doesn’t seem very popular in the area, as suggested by the elaborate permanent mural paintings displayed along the walls outside the University of San Carlos, in San Marcos. Here are some details of the large murals:
See photos of the Marlin Mine here
I’m almost finished my work here in Guatemala, now I have to start editing and captioning and putting together the newest photo essay for Someone Else’s Treasure. The Marlin Gold Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala, is owned by Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc. Here are some photos of the mine itself. More on how the Marlin Mine is impacting local communities coming soon…
One of the Guatemala’s most important holidays, All Saints Day (sometimes called Day of the Dead) is marked by festivals mixing Mayan and Catholic traditions. Most activities take place in the cemeteries, where people decorate gravesites and celebrate their dead. Celebrated on November 1st, here are some photos of the celebrations in San Miguel Ixtahuacan.