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Communities Unite to Say Yes to Life, No to Mining

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By Hannibal Rhoades.

Healthy land, water, air and life-sustaining livelihoods are good enough reasons for many communities around the world to resisting particular mining activities. A new web platform, inspired by communities resisting mining such as that in Doima, Colombia, has been launched to bring these communities together in solidarity; amplifying the growing chorus of voices saying ‘Yes to Life, No to Mining.

The small agricultural community of Doima in central Colombia faces a grim and unwanted fate if mining giant Anglo Gold Ashanti (AGA) gets its way. The South African company wishes to transform a nearby river gorge into a vast tailings dam for its La Colosa gold mine. Fed by a ‘mineroduct’ or over 100km of road that would carve up local farmland, the planned dam would be over 250m high and store 1,420 million tonnes of toxic waste upriver from the community’s rich farmland and the Magdalena River, Colombia’s ‘spine’.

The people of Doima are intensely aware of the dangers the dam and the La Colosa project pose to local and national livelihoods and ecosystems. Located just 4km from the highly active Ibague tectonic fault, if the planned dam were to fail the vast quantities of toxic waste would only have to travel 10km downstream to enter the Magdalena River, potentially polluting water and farmland over a huge area known as ‘Colombia’s Pantry’ for its fertility. Such catastrophic dam failures are not uncommon.

AGA’s aggressive tactics, a lack of consultation and the company’s apparent plans to use local water sources at a rate of 530 liters per gram of gold produced, are other factors in inspiring the people of Doima to resist the project.

Over the past three years the community have blockaded the bridge into their town; lobbied their local and national government; held and won a municipal popular consultation on mining by 2,971 votes to 24 and defended that vote successfully in the constitutional court. Critically, they have also reached out through solidarity letters to communities resisting mining around the world.

Doima activist and anthropologist Mariana Gomez says the messages of support they have received back from international allies have played a critical role in sustaining their resistance:

“We have a saying here (in Doima) that resistance is like a fire; you must keep feeding it and never let it go out. The support we have received from allies everywhere has kept us going. We know they are with us and the company know they are being watched.”

Buoyed by this support, the people of Doima have won significant recent victories in their campaign to stop the dam. Their solidarity process has now been captured in a new film, In Solidarity, sharing their messages and indomitable example.

The need for more of the solidarity so simply and powerfully expressed in Doima has never been greater, as communities from Ghana to Honduras encounter the rapid expansion of mining and the extractive industries.

This need has inspired the emergence of a new web platform dedicated to fostering solidarity; Yes to Life, No to Mining.

At its heart, the Yes to Life, No to Mining initiative recognises that we are bound together in a struggle to protect life and life-sustaining livelihoods from the ecological, social and cultural conflicts engendered by mining. In aid of this effort, the web platform has both symbolic and practical depth.

The site provides a space for communities divided by geography, but united in resistance to congregate in a global movement of and for communities resisting mining. It enables communities and their allies to share stories of resistance, to learn from and connect with one another in solidarity, access vital legal and advocacy information and to organize international pressure to tip the scales of local struggles.

Since its launch in December 2014 the movement has grown to include 30 community organisations and allies from North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and Australasia. Over 530 members of the public have pledged their support in solidarity and the movement is growing daily.

The time has come to say Yes to Life, No to Mining and unite in solidarity. Join us.

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