By CLEMENTE BAUTISTA JR.
The Yes to Life No to Mining Network (YLNM) had its first International Meeting of Regional Coordinators last March 2-5, 2017 in Galicia, Spain. YLNM is a global alliance against destructive mining. It was formed in 2012 by activists, organizations, and networks to address the social and ecological threats being caused by destructive mining around the globe.
YLNM meeting’s objective is to lay out the strategy and general plan of the network which will guide YLNM’s programs and actions in the coming years. For it to become more effective as a counter-current to the on-going ecological devastation and resource plunder being done by corporate mining, YLNM gives strong solidarity to mining-affected people and communities, and provides alternatives to movements around the world.
YLMN chose the community or region of Galicia, Spain as the meeting venue in order to highlight the on-going struggle of the people of Galicia against large-scale mining and other forms of extractive operations in their land. There is a vibrant local anti-mining movement in Galicia.
In 2013, the people of Galicia successfully stopped the Corcoesto open-pit gold mining project by Canadian-owned Edgewater Exploration. The Galicians were able to mobilize thousands of people and organized different forms of protest actions.
Yet the Regional Government of Galicia continues to promote large-scale mining projects in their ecologically-sensitive and biodiversity-rich areas. One of which is the re-opening of tungsten San Finx Mine owned by Tungsten San Minx SL, subsidiary of the European company Sacyr Group.
The San Finx mine in Lousame, Galicia started its operation in 1897 extracting tungsten and tin. It ceased its operation in 1990 but in 2015, the Sacyr Group invested to re-open it in spite of the several negative social and environmental legacy of the mine.
During World War II, the mine used to supply the war mineral materials of the German Nazi. The mine was also a place where local people who opposed the mine and the Nazi war were tortured and killed. In the 1950’s, there was widespread flooding and toxic contamination brought by the failure of the mine tailings dam.
The YLNM regional coordinators during the meeting exchanged experiences and solidarity with the people of Froxan in the municipality of Lousame, Sindicato Labrego Gallego, and ContraminAccion, a Galician network composed of 22 people’s organizations wherein their objective is to oppose large-scale mining and other forms of extractivism in Galicia.
Sindicato Labrego Gallego is a Galician farmer’s association. Primarily they are campaigning against mining projects and helping communities in their defence of their rights, livelihood and environment.
They shared that the local communities are experiencing different forms of intimidation and harassment from the mining company. Their common lands were grabbed by Tungsten San Minx SL. Public funds were channelled by local officials to subsidize greenwashing projects of the mining company. In spite of broad and strong public opposition to the project, the mining company, with the approval of the regional government, continue with their mining activities in the area.
Yet the people did not stop in their opposition and defence of their community. The people of Froxan re-established their ownership in some of the lands that were landgrabbed. They are reviving their forest by planting native tree species which replace commercial trees like Eucalyptus.
They continue to educate their people and instil the value and tradition of collective ownership and management of the commons – land, forest, water, and resources. The YLNM regional coordinators were grateful to participate in the tree planting activity. This served as a symbolical action of protecting mother earth and giving solidarity between organizations.
But most important is they are building a movement—a strong movement.
ContraminAccion and like-minded organizations in Galicia knows that corporate mining in their region will not benefit their people nor their local economy. Corporate mining extracts valuable minerals in their pursuit rake up millions of Euros at the expense of the communities and environment. These minerals will not be used to build railways, ships, houses, and machines for Galicia or Spain. Rather, it will be for the international market.
In the course of these mining operations, land will be poisoned, rivers and seas will be contaminated, forest will be lost and communities will be displaced.
The experience and struggle of the people of Galicia is the same as the experience and struggle of the peasants in the Philippines, the indigenous people of Colombia, the fisherfolks in Nigeria, workers in South Africa, or the Aborigines in Australia. Mining of big corporations not only devastates our environment but violates the rights of the people who are nourishing and protecting this earth.
They have no recourse but to unite and fight against connivance of state and corporation to plunder their resources. And like the successful struggle of Galicians in the past and the people of different countries mentioned above, in people’s collective unity and action, there is strength. Like we always shout, “”¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! The people united can never be defeated!”
Solidaridad con todos! Solidarity to all!
Clemente Bautista is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a national environmental campaign center established in 1997.