Across Latin America, indigenous communities confront mining megacorporations

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Este artículo en español

The author is with Núcleo por un Partido Revolucionario Internacionalista (NUPORI) in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti rest on the second largest gold deposit in the Americas. They also have huge reserves of nickel, bauxite, amber, marble, limestone, and granite. Scott Jobin-Bevans, former president of the Prospectors and Developers Association mining group in Canada, declared that “Hispaniola is an island made of gold” — one he immediately set out to exploit.

Such wealth provokes the greed of multinational mining corporations representing U.S. and Canadian capital, like Barrick Gold, Falcondo, Unigol, Majescor, Newmont Mining, and Goldcorp, who share in the metals extraction in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

It is a perfect deal for the companies. They buy the right to extract for 10 to 15 years; they invest around $50 million, quickly recover their investment, and are left with years of productive activity to reap profits, while the local people are left with arid and infertile lands.

According to the ecological unit of the Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic, “The damages caused to the environment by strip-mining are limitless when the mines are in areas of great water abundance, and even more so when the landscape also houses an extraordinary biodiversity, as in the case of Loma Miranda [in the Dominican Republic].”

Corporate greed, government complicity. In “Nueva Fiebre de Oro” (“New Gold Fever”), a revealing article in Pluma No. 14, Spring 2010 (, Aidée Tassinari reports:

“Latin America has become the main gold-producing region in the world, contributing 35 percent of world production. Peru, Mexico, Chile and Argentina are the main producers.

“Gold extraction results in the destruction of whole mountains. For every ton of destroyed rock, 0.01 ounces of gold are extracted. … By leaching with cyanide, 97 percent of the dispersed mineral is recovered.”

Notes Aidée, “Tons of cyanide are used.” Moreover, it takes millions of gallons of water to extract all the metals that are soluble in this liquid.

The consequences are deadly since cyanide is toxic. When it is mixed with water the chemical permeates the surface and subsoil, poisoning rivers, woods, farms, cattle, and every kind of life.

Who benefits? Obviously, the capitalist owners of the large mining companies who ransack the continent with the support of local bosses and governments.

If a head of state, due to popular pressure, tries to cancel an agreement or renegotiate it, he or she must compensate the multinational economically for the years that remain on the contract.

Another beneficiary is the jewelry business, since it uses 57 per cent of the gold produced. Around 10 percent of all gold is sold to investors, 12 percent is used for industrial production, and 16 percent goes into the U.S. reserves.

Please don’t believe that success in mining exploitation is a product of entrepreneurial luck. First, public companies and services were privatized. Later came the free trade agreements, which produced laws to protect mining investments. The rise of the mining octopuses depended on new laws of all types: labor, fiscal, judicial, real estate, intellectual property, financial, mining, business and immigration.

Who suffers? First of all, indigenous people and the communities where the companies install their operations. And beyond that, the great majority of people.

These communities — Zapotecs, Chatinos, Mixtecs, Coras, Tepehuanes, Mapuches, Intag, Yasuní, Wayuu, Bari, Yuko, Chimila, Emberá Katío and Chamí, Nasa, Zenú, Cañamomo, Muisca, Diaguita, Calchaquí, Quilmes and Collas, Bayóvar, Bonao, Grand Bois, Pueblo Viejo, San Miguel, Ixtahuacán, Sipacapa, and thousands of others — fight the multinationals and sellout governments.

What do we propose? We maintain that as long as capitalism exists, nature will not be protected. But we also know that each fight that reins in the mining companies will increase people’s awareness of that fact — the knowledge that we can only save the planet by burying the bourgeois system, which, as Karl Marx stated, “gushes blood through every pore.”

We propose to challenge those governments that cater to the needs of the mining companies by organizing and mobilizing together so that these enterprises are nationalized and controlled by the workers and communities.

It is a shame that there isn’t any political, labor, or environmental leadership that’s unifying all of the continent’s struggles. If the multinationals join together to protect themselves, shouldn’t those they injure do the same?

Could we call a Continental Conference to discuss and vote on a plan for joint struggle?

A plan like that of the 350 residents of Canoas, Mexico, who kicked out the Pacific Group when it arrived to exploit an iron deposit. We need to do something similar, but multiplied a thousand times.

The people of Canoas united to defend themselves against the multinational, even though they had differences on other issues. That is the type of unity we propose.

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