Violated Human Rights
Jailed mining activists in Ghana
Credit: Daniel Owusu-Koranteng/WACAM
Mining operations have typically set up their operations without respecting the wishes of local communities. Increasingly, indigenous peoples, farmers and other local communities in places as diverse as Peru and Romania are speaking out to protect their lives and livelihoods from the impacts of potentially harmful mining operations. Concerned by mining's impacts on human rights and the environment, local communities around the world are demanding that new mining projects only go forward with their approval. This concept is called "free, prior, and informed consent" and is recognized for indigenous peoples under an international convention.
This was recognized recently in an independent review carried out by the World Bank regarding its funding policies for mining, oil, and other extractive industry projects. The review's final report recommended that the Bank "ensure meaningful community participation in projects" by mandating "free, prior, informed consent for all operations which may impact communities."
A close examination of the social impacts of the mining industry reveals a consistent pattern of disregard for community rights to free, prior, and informed consent as well as other basic human rights.
Rural communities and indigenous peoples often lack legal title to their lands, even though they may have occupied the same lands for many generations. Consequently, they are often vulnerable to eviction when a mining lease is granted, and the eviction may be imposed without prior consultation, meaningful compensation, or the offer of equivalent lands elsewhere.
In the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, an investigation by the Indonesian government's National Human Rights Commission in 2001 substantiated claims that Indonesian military and company security had forcibly evicted local small-scale miners and torched villages from 1989 to 1992 to make way for UK- and Australia-based Rio Tinto's PT Kelian gold mine. Local miners were never compensated for loss of livelihood, while the 440 families who were physically displaced to make way for the mine received only minimal compensation for their losses.
An Australian mining company in Indonesia entertains military officials. Credit: Oxfam Community Aid Abroad
The forced relocation, physical attacks, and loss of livelihoods that can be associated with the land expropriations are all serious human rights violations.
For more examples of mining's impacts on human rights, read about Ghana's Sansu and Wassa communities.
For more information:
Endangered Communities. A section from Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities, and the Environment. (592KB)
Extractive Industries Review, Chapter 6 (Recommendations).