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The heart of our Earth

Here is the name of the project, a project that seeks to show the reality of one of the dirtiest and most destructive industries in the world: mining. And it will do so through stories told by Latin American communities that resist that industry. The organisation working on this project is Latin America Bureau (LAB), a charity and non-profit publisher, based in London and whose work is focused on the region

 

Across Latin America, mining has expanded immensely 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 are not 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.

Following years of environmental degradation and acute water stress, El Salvador –a tiny Central American nation about the size of Wales– made history in 2017 when it became the first country to completely ban mining for metals.

This was only possible thanks to years of grassroots activism involving social movements, community groups, environmental activists, the Catholic Church and others.

And in recent months, tensions have been rising in Chubut, Argentina, as the government hopes to relax the provincial mining law. Thanks to community resistance, open-pit mining has been banned in Chubut since 2003.

Brumadinho. Photo by Diego Baravelli

But now, with the Covid-19 pandemic making organisation difficult, the government is pushing for mining in an area home to Mapuche indigenous communities.

Locals fear that once the companies get a foothold, it will be impossible to remove them.

The project

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.

As the principal barrier to the industry’s further expansion, it is vital to support these frontline communities.

Hence LAB’s plan for a new book and website, entitled “The heart of our Earth: community resistance to mining in Latin America”.

Photo by Viviana Sánchez

The project consist of a book (to be written by Tom Gatehouse),  that will chart 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.

They will provide a space for additional reading, multimedia material, and comment, continuing long after the original book has been published. LAB will also encourage the affected communities to contribute.

Aditionally, LAB’s partners in the project will prepare material on mining and communities directed at policymakers, companies, investors, and the general public.

The project is aimed at 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; and social movements and activists in Latin America, so they can link up and share their experiences.

Donations and financing

LAB want to raise £10,000 via their dedicated Crowdfunder campaign. This money will be used for research and writing of “The heart of our Earth: community resistance to mining in Latin America”; also to set up the website with content, and to prepare advocacy and awareness-raising materials in collaboration with the project partners.

Brumadinho. Photo by Diego Baravelli

The organisation working on this project Latin America Bureau (LAB), a charity and non-profit publisher, providing independent news and analysis on the region’s people, politics, and society.

Since the 1970s, LAB has been amplifying the voices of Latin Americans fighting for social justice and has published more than 150 books, including “Voices of Latin America” (2019), “Amazon besieged” (2018) and “Rosa of the wild grass” (2016).

LAB’s project partners include London Mining Network and Mines and Communities, both of which work to represent mining-impacted communities all over the world – not least in Latin America. To support LAB you can donate to the project The heart of our Earth, and to keep up to date with campaign news visit their Facebook page. To see  the campaign video click here.

(Photos supplied by LAB)

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