Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Chapter 4: Resources before rights

Chapter 4

Resources before rights

by Jo Griffin

Community resistance to mining demands a response from companies and governments if projects are to advance. All too often, these responses have involved human rights abuses. This chapter presents a recent case of criminalization of mining opponents in Honduras; it then tells the story of the systematic violation of the human rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous Wayúu communities by the coal miner Cerrejón, in La Guajira, Colombia; finally, it examines human rights abuses during the conflict between local communities and the Yanacocha mining company in Cajamarca, in the Peruvian Andes.

‘They are using jails built for organized crime for the government’s opponents. Since 2018 people defending land and water from contamination linked to mining have been sent to these prisons.’

– Karen Spring, a Canadian human rights activist who has lived in Honduras for more than a decade

‘For us young women there are definitely risks and we get abuse on the streets. But it makes us more determined to stand up and defend what is ours.’

– Gabriela Sorto, mining opponent and daughter of Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, one of the ‘Guapinol Eight’, eight water defenders jailed for opposition to a mining project near Guapinol, Honduras

‘The police are an institution of the state of Peru that is supposed to guarantee security. But what happens in the zones where there is influence of mining companies [is that] the police sign agreements with the companies, so the national police become a private police force of the companies and cease to carry out their function.’

– José de Echave, co-founder of the rights organization CooperAcción and a former vice-minister of environmental management at Peru’s Ministry of the Environment

Berta Cáceres’ mother, with four of her children and her brother Roberto. Credit: RightsAction

‘We want people in the countries which buy this coal to think more in depth about where it comes from. What effect does it have in the country or region where it’s mined?’

– Marcos Brito Uriana, indigenous Wayúu activist from Provincial, an indigenous territory neighbouring Cerrejón in La Guajira, Colombia

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