International forum on mining and extractive economy brings together activists from all over the world

In October of last year, the 2nd global thematic social forum on mining and the extractive economy (TSF-mining) was held in Semarang, Indonesia. IUCN NL partner organisation Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) was one of the co-organisers of the event. The aim of the TSF-mining is to strengthen and build a broad global movement of activists from all continents who are facing the problems of mining and extractivism in their territories, and to build mutual solidarity and common solutions to guarantee human rights, the rights of nature and to ensure a just and equitable world for present and future generations.

Header photo: Participants at the Thematic Social Forum on Mining 2023 (c) TSF-mining

TSF-Mining brought together participants from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, North America, and Europe. These included a diverse base of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IP&LCs), unions, faith-based groups, and civil society who are resisting mining and extractivism. As building blocks to strengthen its international solidarity and advocacy, TSF-Mining 2023 had the “Right to Say No” and the “Nexus of climate justice, just transition and extractives” as its main themes.

As part of our Bottom Line! and Forests for a Just Future programmes, IUCN NL contributed financially to the organisation of the event, as our partner ATM was one of its co-organisers. Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, said: ‘This is a great opportunity to globally bring attention to the experiences of mining-affected communities in the Philippines and the overall struggle against large-scale mining.’

Community resistance against mining and extractives

The 4-day forum provided space for participants to share their stories of community resistance against mining and extractives. On the agenda were topics such as the increasing threats that environmental human rights defenders face as well as the gendered impacts of mining. As the organisers of the event say: ‘Women’s leadership and eco-feminism are powerful and necessary ingredients for a world beyond extractivism.’ Another important topic was the new frontiers for mining that are being explored, including the deep sea.

The right to say no

The forum drew special attention to the issue of civic space, which TSF-mining refers to as ‘the right to say no’. The participants see this right as their greatest asset; mobilisation and protests against mining are vital. But around the world, the right to protest is being under attack. The participants discussed international human rights and other normative and legal instruments as ways to address this. But new ways of looking at nature, and actually giving it legal rights, were also discussed as approaches to safeguard both the environment and the people defending it.

ATM is also part of the right to say no- campaign. ‘By being part of this international campaign, we are strengthening local resistance against destructive large-scale mining and affirming the communities’ right to free, prior and informed consent,’ said Garganera.

Cheryl P. Polutan (Che), Programmes Officer at Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights (LILAK) speaking at TSF-mining.
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator speaking at the forum.

A future beyond extractivism

The forum also provided more room for in-depth discussions and exchanges of experiences amongst the participants. On the last day, the participants visited three different communities in Java that are actively resisting extractivism.

To continue working on the issues discussed at the forum in the coming two years, a declaration and an action agenda were developed at the end of the event. The declaration consists of the current realities, threats, resistance and the participants’ commitment to alternatives for a future beyond extractivism. The action agenda is linked to the declaration and seeks to implement the calls for alternatives that are made in it.

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Nexus of climate justice, just transition and extractives

Local and Indigenous communities in countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been confronted for years with the major ecological and social impacts of large-scale mining. Too often mining is accompanied by human rights violations. The scale of these violations is likely to increase as a result of the explosively growing demand for metals and minerals to produce batteries, solar panels and wind turbines for the energy transition. Mining corporations are collaborating with institutions and governments to – often aggressively – market their destructive and socially unjust activities as false solutions to the climate crisis under such terms as “climate mining” and “green” extractivism.

The majority of raw materials needed for the energy transition are extracted from the global South for meagre pay and under poor working conditions and are exported to the North. Meanwhile, communities in the South suffer from deforestation, environmental degradation, exploitation and health damage. Added to this is the disproportionate impact of climate change, caused mainly by the fossil footprint of Western countries. Women, girls and Indigenous people are particularly hard hit in this regard.

There is no doubt that we need to accelerate the transition from fossil to renewable energy. But we need to ensure that we make this shift as fairly as possible, while minimising the negative impact on people and nature. TSF-Mining 2023 believes these emerging developments require a coordinated response from affected communities as well as continuing efforts of awareness-raising, capacity-building, and solidarity.

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Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future