Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Heart of Our Earth : Community Resistance to Mining in Latin America

What is 'The Heart of Our Earth'?

  • A book. Published by LAB and Practical Action Publishing in 2023. The Heart of Our Earth is written in compelling, straightforward language you don’t need to be an expert to read. It charts the activities of multinational mining companies in Latin America, the effects on local communities, and the ways in which they are resisting and fighting back. Visit book website.
  • A website. This website provides a space for additional reading, multimedia material, and comment, beginning now and continuing long after the book is been published. We also encourage the affected communities to contribute. Follow our project-specific Facebook and Instagram pages to keep updated on Latin American mining news.
  • Events. With our partners in the project we will prepare events on mining and communities directed at policymakers, companies, investors, and the general public. Get in touch to invite us to speak at an event.

Why mining?

Across Latin America, mining has expanded massively in recent decades. Vast landscapes have been stripped to feed the factories of Europe, North America and Asia – and not only in traditional mining regions, but also in hitherto pristine areas in places like Argentine Patagonia, the Amazon Rainforest and the Guatemalan Highlands. But communities aren’t taking this lying down. All over the region, hundreds of affected communities have been fighting to protect their land, their water, and their traditional ways of life – and in some cases have achieved some remarkable victories, with lessons for social movements and environmental activists everywhere.

‘Green’ technologies, especially the soaring demand for batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage, will vastly increase demand for copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and other minerals and pile further pressures on communities, water resources and the environment.

Why does this matter?

Mining is one of the dirtiest, most destructive industries in the world. It consumes massive quantities of water and generates vast amounts of toxic waste. It devastates biodiversity and is one of the sectors most to blame for the global climate emergency. With life-changing impacts on communities who live close to operations, opposition is inevitable. But all too often this is met with harassment, threats and violence. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments have designated mining an “essential activity”, despite clusters of the disease developing at mining sites, with consequences not only for the health of workers, but also local communities already suffering from mining-related health conditions. Moreover, there is mounting evidence that mining companies are using the pandemic to bulldoze opposition and secure regulatory changes in their interest.

Who is the project for?

  • Students and academics working in disciplines such as geography, development studies, anthropology, Latin American Studies, and others.
  • Journalists, NGOs, and businesses doing work in the region, particularly on mining and other extractive industries.
  • Activists, campaigners, and members of social movements everywhere who wish to learn from the Latin American experience.
  • Investors concerned with understanding what their money is used for.
  • Social movements and activists in Latin America, so they can link up and share their experiences.

News about mining

Colombia: open-pit mine threatens municipalities near Bogotá

In August this year, the owners of two fincas in the Gualivá province of Cundinamarca, just outside of Bogota, were sent expropriation orders by...

Peru: young girls chained in mining camp

A chance discovery of a gold mining dredge in Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon led observers to a wretched miners' camp where youg girls were chained in a hut and used for sex.

Ecuador: community vs the gold miners

Indigenous communities in Azuay, Ecuador, are fighting Canadian gold mining company Dundee Precious Metals, whose Loma Larga mine threatens to pollute the Kimsakocha moorlands and its rivers.

Colombia: corporate claims vs human rights

Glencore, owner of the vast Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia, is using the grotesque Investor State Dispute Settlement process to prevent the Colombian government from protecting its own citizens and environment. Jen Moore was part of an international delegation to study this problem.

Vale? Is it worth it?

Documentary film about artistic responses to Brazil's worst environmental crimes: the Brumadinho disaster and Mariana tailings dam collapses, for which megamining company, Vale, is responsible.

Ecuador: the Napo goldrush and the rise of the narco-garimpeiros

When large mining companies such as TerraEarth withdrew from gold mining in Ecuador's Napo province, they paved the way for smaller scale illegal miners to move in in force, financed by cocaine money, with terrible consequences

London Mining Network Blog

Pinheiro, Maceio

Brazil: mine subsidence destroys Pinheiro

In Brazil, an entire urban neighbourhood emptied out following catastrophic subsidence caused by salt mines. In Sonora, Mexico, ejido members pursue proper compensation and justice from Penmont Mining.

Ecuador: Intag stands up to mining

Intag communities in Ecuador are resisting development of a copper mine at Llurimagua, proposed by Enami and Codelco. In Peru, residents of Aquia, Ancásh, accuse the Antamina mine of encroaching on their land without consultation.
Chubut protest, photo:Conclusión Buenos Aires / No a la Mina Esquel

Mining: democracy comes from the street

Protests at Chubut in Argentina highlight the importance of pressure from the streets to force local officials to hold the line against destructive mine development. In Brazil, meanwhile, it is the trans-Brazil FIOL railway project that is mobilising communities to defend their land and livelihoods.


Thanks very much to all of our Crowdfunder donors who've supported the project throughout. Thanks also to Network for Social Change for generously supporting the later stages of the book project. If you'd like donate towards this project, please click here.

Environmental Defenders