Rio+20: Mining should not be considered a sustainable activity

The text that has been negotiated at Rio +20, moderated by Brazil, insists on including mining and sustainable development. Indigenous peoples clearly propose that mining is incompatible with sustainable development.

In the Andes, particularly, imposing mining on indigenous territories is a major source of social conflict. This contradicts what the document says: "mining industries are important to all countries with mineral resources, in particular developing countries." In fact, it is the industrialized countries and the multinational companies who enrich themselves through exploiting mineral resources and condemn poor countries to a primary-export economy, without the possibility of industrialization and growing beyond primary extraction. Nor is it true that that "countries have the sovereign right to develop their mineral resources according to their national priorities, and responsibility regarding the exploitation of resources described in the Rio Principles". The neoliberal model of development imposes conditions that favour extractive multinational corporations, where nation states facilitate low taxes and minimal labour, environmental and social standards. In this context it is totally wrong to say such states have the "capabilities to develop, manage and regulate their mining industries." Mining leads to predation, pollution and the violation of rights. States do not abide by the requirement for consultation and free, prior and informed consent in granting mining concessions. Centuries of territorial plunder, pollution of water sources, cultural impacts, displacement and criminalization of indigenous peoples confirms the incompatibility of mining with the right to life. The Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (CAOI) calls on the international indigenous movement, social movements and human rights organizations to mobilize in the defence of life and demand that mining activities are excluded from the term sustainable development. We call for the following paragraphs of the document relating to mining to be eliminated from the final text at Rio +20: 227. We acknowledge that minerals and metals make a major contribution to the world economy and modern societies. We note that mining industries are important to all countries with mineral resources, in particular developing countries. We also note that mining offers the opportunity to catalyze broad-based economic development, reduce poverty and assist countries in meeting internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, when managed effectively and properly. We acknowledge that countries have the sovereign right to develop their mineral resources according to their national priorities, and responsibility regarding the exploitation of resources described in the Rio Principles. We further acknowledge that mining activities should maximize social and economic benefits as well as effectively address negative environmental and social impacts. In this regard, we recognize that governments need strong capacities to develop, manage, and regulate their mining industries in the interest of sustainable development. 228. We recognize the importance of strong and effective legal and regulatory frameworks, policies and practices for the mining sector that deliver economic and social benefits and include effective safeguards that reduce social and environmental impacts as well as conserve biodiversity and ecosystems including during post mining closure. We call on governments and businesses to promote the continuous improvement of accountability and transparency, as well as the effectiveness of the relevant existing mechanisms to prevent the illicit financial flows from mining activities.

Tags: Climate action

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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