London- In the last week of November, Earth Defenders from Uganda, Philippines and Colombia joined UK allies*, including Gaia, to challenge London’s annual Mines and Money Conference.
Advertising itself as the event where ‘deals get done’, the aim of Mines and Money is to match-make big money with big mines, helping finance the expansion of mining destruction around our living planet.
That the conference has made London its home is no surprise. The UK capital is a global hub of mining finance and power- a safe haven for one of the world’s most deadly and polluting industries and its money.
During a week of action titled Rise, Resist, Renew, we joined our visitors to highlight the realities of mining for frontline communities and to raise up alternatives that prioritise the wellbeing of people and the planet.
Here, in pictures, is the story of the week. You can also catch up with our activities through this short film.
UK-based organisations have been challenging the Mines and Money Conference since 2013. But, for the first time, this year we were joined by leaders from the frontlines of mining resistance processes around the world.
- Clemente ‘Enteng’ Bautista Jr, National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, joined us from the Philippines.
- Camila Mendez, land and human rights defender and member of youth led environmental justice collective COSAJUCA, joined us from Colombia.
- Alice Kazimura, farmer, community leader and Chairperson of the Buliisa Women’s Development Association, joined via video link.
On Saturday 25th November Enteng, Camila and Alice shared their stories of resistance, success and alternatives at a public forum held in central London.
Camila shared how her community- the Colombian municipality of Cajamarca- succesfully stopped what would have become Latin America’s largest gold mine- Anglo Gold Ashanti’s planned La Colosa mine- through a popular consultation (referendum).
These referendums are now under attack, says Camila:
“We are living in a mining dictatorship. Our Government needs to stop pushing mining and recognise the constitutional right of citizens to participate in popular consultations on the future of their territories. If Colombia is to have peace we must have environmental justice.”
Filipino human rights defender Enteng Bautista, shared the deadly situation environmental defenders opposing mining operations, including those of British companies, in the Philippines.
“The real risks are for those in the communities themselves”, says Enteng. “In the province of Batangas, Canadian and British mining interests are aiming to open large open cast gold mine operations near the town of Lobo. The local community strongly opposes the mine, which threatens an environmental disaster for farmers and fishing communities. Since August this year three local anti-mining activists have been killed and five environmental defenders were illegally arrested in Batangas.”
Alice Kazimura joined via video link to share her community’s experiences responding to the oil drilling activities of Tullow Oil, an Anglo-Irish oil company registered in London.
Alice’s community, with support from Gaia’s allies WoMin and NAPE, are advancing women-led alternatives to an extractives-based development paradigm in Uganda.
“We are promoting alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy, so that we reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the need to extract more oil and gas”, says Alice. “We have also been having practical women’s exchanges and experience sharing on the methods used for agro-ecological farming. These are farming methodologies suitable for a small piece of land. (We are) creating safe spaces for women to deliberate on their own issues and do women’s movement building.”
Participants in Saturday’s meeting gather in a show of solidarity support for all those on the frontlines of the new frontiers of mining, and in recognition that these communities have the alternatives already!
On Monday, Enteng and Camila took their stories and demands to the heart of the UK political establishment, meeting civil servants and other elements of the UK Government concerned with Human Rights.
The mining industry enjoys longstanding connections with parts of the UK Government, which often gives UK-based mining companies diplomatic support overseas, even when their activities are opposed by local people.
Speaking on the radio and giving interviews, Camila and Enteng spread the word about the role London has to play in the expansion of mining projects, and the impacts this has on communities and ecosystems around the planet.
Many of the world’s biggest mining companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange and conduct their business through London. Still more companies are listed on the city’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
British high street and investment banks, pension funds and insurance companies invest hundreds of millions of pounds a year in mining projects across the globe, connecting working people’s earnings in Britain with the struggles of mining-affected communities around the world.
On Tuesday groups joined Camila, Enteng’s and host organisations at the Mines and Money Conference for a peaceful demonstration.
Gaia has been present to contest the Mines and Money Conference since 2013 as part of our work to contest the mining industry’s contributions to the multiple ecological and social crises we face today.
Studies have shown that much of current mining is driven by greed, not need, and the gross overconsumption of relatively few nations, mainly in the Global North. See our Beyond Extractivism materials to find out more about the problem, and the solutions!
The demonstration was timed to coincide with keynote speeches at Mines and Money given by controversial** Brexit financier Arron Banks and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage. Farage and Banks advised executives and investors present how to take advantage of an economic climate being shaped by Brexit and Trump’s rise.
In response, activists lined the streets around the conference venue with posters questioning the mining industry’s choice of ‘thought leadership’.
Demonstrators hold banners that join the dots between mining operations, colonialism, patriarchy and landgrabbing.
Mining disproportionately impacts women, as our allies the WoMin Alliance have documented. The industry also replicates colonial dynamics of wealth extraction, leaving local communities and ecosystems to cope with pollution and destruction, while the minerals, metals and money are hoarded elsewhere.
According to a War on Want report, UK-linked mining companies control more than £1trillion of Africa’s natural ‘resources’.
“We are here (in London) and wherever the mining companies go, we will go, to tell them we are against extractivism.”
Camila shares Cajamarca’s story of resistance and victory with gathered demonstraters.
The people of Cajamarca’s call is clear- Colombia’s Government should ensure the right of municipalities to hold popular consultations on issues affecting the future of their territories, and respect the results of these consultations.
“The Philippines is the most dangerous place in Asia to be an environmental activist. The extra-judicial killings which go under the name of Duterte’s so-called ‘War On Drugs’, and which are estimated to have reached 7 -13,000 dead, are also used to eliminate community and political activists. We know of 34 environmental defenders being killed since President Duterte came into office.”
Enteng calls for UK-linked mining companies and their backers to divest their interests in the Philippines where mining struggles are leading to the murder of environmental activists.
Following Tuesday’s demonstration, London Mining Network led a ‘Toxic Tour’ of mining company headquarters in central London, demonstrating the density of the mining industry’s presence in the UK capital.
Outside the HQ of mining giant Rio Tinto, a sticker calls for the protection of Oak Flat- a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache People that is threatened by a copper mine in which Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are invested.
Sacred Natural Sites are particularly threatened by the extractive industries the world over. This is despite international recognition that they should be ‘No Go Areas’ for extraction.
According to the latest data, mining is the world’s deadliest industry for the environmental defenders who choose to oppose it.
On Thursday night, groups gathered outside the Mines and Money Conference’s Gala Dinner and awards ceremony on Thursday night to mourn those who have lost their lives protecting land, water and life from mining.
Watch our short video to see more from the week’s activities.
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry– Red Pepper Magazine
Nigel Farage, Aaron Banks, and the ugly face of metals mining– Open Democracy
*Rise, Resist, Renew was a collaboration between Camila and Enteng’s organisations, Kalikasan PNE and COSAJUCA/Comite Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, and UK-based allies Gaia, London Mining Network and War on Want. Other special thanks go to Yes to Life, No to Mining, Movimiento Jaguar Despierto, Expresion Inka, IndustriAll Global Union, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines, WoMin Alliance, NAPE-Uganda and many others.
**Nigel Farage has been accused of racism and xenophobia. While still leader of UKIP, Farage’s party was reported to the police over allegations of inciting racial hatred. Arron Banks, a mining investor, is implicated in the Paradise Papers and under investigation by the Electoral Commission to establish if he broke the law when he donated and loaned £8.4 million to the Brexit campaign.