Above: This mining facility on Flores Island, Indonesia, is one of many that threaten the rights, health, & safety of local indigenous populations, depletes the environment around it, and engenders much crime and mistrust through greed for exploitation. VIVAT Members Address Alarming Issues in Mining “VIVAT Members have been working to combat these injustices…promote human rights of indigenous communities and maintenance of a sustainable environment.”
For centuries, mining has been a source of economic revenue for those exploiting areas abundant in valuable natural resources. In our modern world, some mining of resources is essential for our lifestyles: cell phones, automobiles, computer technologies, and modern construction of buildings would not be possible without exploiting natural resources. But while the positive effects of mining and the use of the mined resources can easily be seen worldwide, often the most pressing and concerning negative effects including grave health risks to local populations and alarming environ-mental degradation are the effects that go unnoticed and unmentioned.
VIVAT and its members, along with the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development NGO Major Group, NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples Issues and the Mining Working Group, have been working to raise awareness of the negative impacts of mining and to persuade governments and other actors to discourage over-exploitation of lands and protect the rights of indigenous peoples affected by mining. Negative effects include, but by no means are limited to, violations of the basic human rights of indigenous communities; corruption within local governments and mining corporations leading to unfair distribution of profits, often completely bypassing indigenous communities’ rights to the profits; and grave environmental and health concerns regarding mining and its effects on the surrounding community and environment. These negative effects are largely ignored by local governments and mining companies and the voices of harmed communities are shunted aside and disregarded.
VIVAT members have been working on a number of fronts to combat these injustices and bring to light many of the egregious actions of corrupt governments and mining companies in an effort to promote human rights of indigenous communities and maintenance of a sustainable environment. The UN Division for Sustainable Development has organized a Review Session to discuss global issues in five thematic issues: transport, chemicals, waste management, mining, and sustainable consumption and production. VIVAT and its members have taken an active role in participating in the Review Session through the CSD Major Groups Program. Within the program, participating NGOs may contribute to a focus paper discussing the five thematic issues, as well as help compile information and research on the discussed topics for the Secretary General’s report for CSD-18.
FORCAM SIKKA (Forum Cendekia-wan Asal Manggarai), a partner of VIVAT in Maumere, Indonesia, has been an especially active member in dealing with mining issues. As part of the input to the Secretary General’s report for CSD-18, FORCAM put together an anti-mining letter and petition highlighting several negative effects of mining specifically on Flores Island, Indonesia. The letter was widely circulated to the local government in Flores, and copies were also sent to the offices of Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the President of Indonesia, Pope Benedict XVI, several prominent cabinet members of the Indonesian government, and many others. FORCAM also contributed a case study to the CSD-18 Major Groups Program, which specifically discussed three districts of Manggarai, Flores Island, which have been severely impacted by local mining exploitation and excavation projects.
In order to better consolidate all research and information regarding mining between VIVAT members, an online list-serve group has been set up for VIVAT members to share files, photos, videos, and other information regarding their work on the subject. While the group is still in the growing stages, it will hopefully become a great mechanism for linking together VIVAT members who are all working for the same goal.
NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF MINING
Environmental and health issues:
- Destruction of natural resources, trees and forests; water sources, rivers and wells dried up, re-directed and/or contaminated;
- Skin diseases and mysterious deaths; contamination and death of livestock;
- Food shortages resulting from contamination and environmental degradation;
- Destruction and waste of land once mining activities have ceased; refusal of mining companies to work towards reclamation of land; large amounts of waste, including toxic waste, generated;
- Fissures/damage in walls of homes.
Violations of basic human rights:
- Lack of informed consent and consultation of Indigenous communities involved and, therefore:
- violation of ILO 169, which many of the host countries have signed;
- violation of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 10, 19, 28, 29, 32;
- Buying Indigenous lands that are traditionally held communally; and violation of land rights.
- Farmers lose sales: consumers reject crops grown in environments degraded by mining practices;
- Drop in tourism in areas located near mining facilities;
Reliance on mining thwarts efforts to establish sustainable economies because mined resources and many mining practices are not sustainable.