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:
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 Observer, The 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.