Oxford Real Farming Conference: The Right to Say No! Case studies from around the world

The Gaia Foundation and ‘Say No to Mining, Yes to Life’ organised a very inspiring session showcasing some amazing struggles against mining, similar to the Amadiba campaign in South Africa (see previous post). Hal Roades chaired the session and made some important introductory remarks, similar to the points he made when he spoke at one of our seminars on mining, ecology and communities (https://peopleslandpolicy.home.blog/2020/08/19/land-communities-and-the-ecological-crisis-impact-of-mining/). The key question is how does large, industrial-scale mining impact on the land and water we need to feed ourselves. The impact of the extraction of minerals, from the preparatory work, the mining itself, and then the aftermath has huge negative consequences for living ecosystems- which includes human communities. The demand for minerals is increasing- both in terms of the variety of minerals and the amount of each one. This is because of the fact that the new ‘green’ technology is dependent on all sorts of minerals. Communities, however, are fighting back. The focus in this session, as it is part of a farming conference, is on the impact on farming communities and why they have chosen to say no to mining and yes to maintaining their way of life based on agriculture.

There is not the space here to devote to a complete account of each case study. The full podcast will soon be available, but for now here is a taste of what each is doing with links to investigate further.

Save our Sperrins (https://www.facebook.com/pg/SaveOurSperrins/posts/)

Dalradian Gold, a Canadian mining corporation, came to County Tyrone in Northern Ireland around 10 years ago, several years before anyone knew what was happening. They managed to get leases (122,000 hectares!) for minerals from the Crown Estate, which owns all the mineral rights in Norther Ireland! The impact on the community and the environment would be enormous so people launched a campaign. They were well aware that the first thing a mining company does is “mine the community”- try and win people over through bribes and getting politicians on their side. But they were not successful. The campaign has used a variety of tactics from lobbying, social media, and direct action.

Cajamarca, Colombia (https://www.gaiafoundation.org/the-story-of-cajamarca-colombia/)

The speaker gave the history of this momentous struggle against AngloGold Ashanti, based in South Africa. The area that was targeted is a key food growing area for Colombia, mostly vegetables such as peas and the arrachacha, the Andean parsnip, and is known as the “pantry of Colombia”. The area affected would be immense, not only affecting Cajamarca but also Doima, 100 kilometers away, where the processing plant would be. For the full story see the link above. One important point that came out is the fact that two referendums were held in both communities and voted, 98% and 97%, to reject the mining proposals. This is the first example in the world of communities officially saying no.

However, this was not enough. They also made sure that they made all the arguments for why farming is a viable alternative to mining, not just for ecosystems but for human livelihoods. They developed a strategy of marketing the arrachacha to restaurants in Bogota- so increased income whilst still maintaining the principle of production for the locality. Consumers in the city were made aware of where their food was coming from and how important it is to protect those environments and communities.

Northern Finland (http://www.snowchange.org/)

As more and more corporations target the northern area of the world for all its resources “the Bonanza of the North”, it is great to see an example of communities resisting this extractivist model and choosing to preserve and enhance their traditional way of life. Their success in driving the developers out is a landmark victory, showing that communities are interested in the common good.

The project is based in the northern regions of Finland and includes many Sami villages. They are keen to restore the habitat that had already been damaged and embarked on a huge rewilding programme, based on traditional knowledge and science. They have created the largest conservation area in Finland.

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