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HomePublicationOut now: The Heart of Our Earth

Out now: The Heart of Our Earth

The Heart of Our Earth: Community resistance to mining in Latin America is hot off the press

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The Heart of Our Earth: Community resistance to mining in Latin America by Tom Gatehouse was published on March 24.

The Heart of Our Earth tells the story of the unprecedented expansion of the mining industry across Latin America since the 1990s, and the massive social and environmental upheaval this has involved. 

From the time of Columbus and the Spanish conquistadores, the history of Latin America has been closely entwined with mining. Yet the book explains how, in recent decades, the industry has taken on vast new dimensions, becoming far more powerful and destructive than anything seen in earlier periods.

Driven by high mineral prices, mining companies have moved into countries where hitherto they had little or no presence, and ventured into ever more remote and ecologically sensitive areas, such as high up in the Andean cordillera and deep into the Amazon rainforest. This has brought about unprecedented social and environmental changes: entire landscapes have been radically transformed, and lifestyles which have changed little in centuries have, in some cases, disappeared altogether.

But as mining has expanded, so has social conflict, with frontline communities mobilizing in defence of their lands, water, livelihoods, and cultures. This resistance has occurred throughout the region and has taken on very different forms: from roadblocks to research; from sabotage to street theatre. While some communities have paid a heavy price for their opposition, others have achieved some impressive victories. The Heart of Our Earth tells their story: how the mining industry has affected them, how they have fought back, and their visions for fairer and more sustainable futures.

The book is the product of years of monitoring and research, featuring in-depth interviews not only with activists and leaders from communities affected by the industry, but also with NGO representatives, international experts, academics and others. Written in clear, non-technical language, The Heart of Our Earth is for students, academics, activists, journalists, and anyone who has ever wondered about the true costs of the metals which increasingly power our lives.

What does The Heart of Our Earth cover?

The Heart of Our Earth depicts the birth of present-day resistance in Chubut, Argentina (Chapter 1) and includes a mixture of well-known cases – such as Cerrejón and Yanacocha (Chapter 4) and the tailings dams disasters in Brazil (Chapter 5) – as well as others which have received little or no attention in the Anglophone press. It looks at Corporate Social Responsibility tactics, greenwashing, human rights, climate change and to what extent mining may be part of the solution (looking at two metals which will be essential for the energy transition: copper, focusing on the Cordillera del Cóndor, Ecuador; and lithium, focusing on the Salar de Atacama in Chile), and what exactly ‘sustainable mining’ might mean in practice.

You can read extracts of the book in Diálogo Chino and Voz, hear Tom speaking about some of the issues touched on in the book on the Latam Dialogues Podcast, and pick up a copy and join the author for a glass of wine alongside a representative from War on Want and London Mining Network, journalist Sue Branford, and family members of Dom Phillips who’ll present an exhibition about his work in the Amazon alongside Bruno Pereira, at our launch event on March 30 in London.

Who wrote The Heart of Our Earth?

Tom Gatehouse and Jo Griffin:

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Tom Gatehouse is a writer, researcher, editor, and translator, who has lived and worked in Argentina, Brazil, and Spain. He worked as editor and project manager on LAB’s Voices of Latin America (2019) and translated Bernardo Kucinski’s novel The Past is an Imperfect Tense (2020). His writings and translations have been published on Latin America Geographies, Mongabay, Red Pepper, and Folha de S. Paulo, on the LAB website, and by literary publishers in Portugal and the UK. He lives in Bristol.

Jo Griffin is a freelance journalist and writer who lived and worked in Mexico and Brazil for several years and has continued to report from Latin America. Jo spent ten years on staff with The Guardian and her articles have also been published by The ObserverThe LA Times, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and The Times of India, among many others. She has worked as an editor and sub-editor and as a reporter for several short films, including One Man, One City, Three Evictions, for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, about the history of evictions in Rio de Janeiro. She is currently working on a book about a radical prison system in Brazil. She lives in London with her family.

What do the press say?

‘Deftly interweaving testimony, action, and original research, The Heart of Our Earth is a comprehensive and engaging overview of different movements that have taken on extractive and toxic mining corporations over the past twenty years.’
‘As each chapter narrows in on one or two specific movements, the sheer breadth of the research undertaken for the book illustrates not only how each of these examples of resistance differ in size, scale, and tactics, but also how they inspire and inform each other, creating a network of solidarity across different regions and struggles.’

NACLA

‘Company PR, ‘corporate social responsibility’, diversionary tactics and the oxymoronic notion of ‘sustainable mining’ are deftly exposed, but Gatehouse also indicates ways to improve matters… proper regulation of the industry plus a major paradigm shift towards re-use, recycling and sticking to ‘indispensable’ mining only.’

New Internationalist

In The Heart of Our Earth, Gatehouse does what he does best: highlight the voices and power of movements making change.

– Dr Kirsten Francescone, Trent University and formerly MiningWatch Canada.

‘Tom Gatehouse does not seek to paint a romantic picture of a post-extractivist world, free of mined metals and minerals. Instead, he brings a much-needed and too often overlooked perspective to the narrative of commodity-led growth; one that puts people – not profits – squarely at its centre. An urgent, necessary, and timely book.’

– Dr Oliver Balch, freelance writer and PhD in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge

 The book is a parable for our times.

– Dr John Crabtree, University of Oxford