Resisting oil, mining and gas program highlights
The Resisting Mining, Oil and Gas (RMOG) Program is a new FoEI program, and groups are concentrating on mapping FoEI’s current work with communities, as well as planning joint campaign work on mining, oil and gas corporations. Work on a campaigning manual on resisting mining, oil and gas is already underway; and the RMOG Program has also agreed to establish a campaign against Holcin, a cement, aggregates and concrete transnational corporation. An international campaign against Goldcorp is also planned.
Some collaborative international activities are also underway. On 22 July, Friends of the Earth groups participated in a number of actions against Canadian open-pit mines, in countries including Australia, Canada, Mexico and Thailand, to mark the Global Day of Action Against Open Pit Mining on 22 July.
Another important event was the Conference on "Extractive Industries: Blessing or Curse? Impacts of the Oil and Gas Industry," held by FoE Europe in Brussels on 13 October. The conference focused on the environmental, climate and social impacts of oil and gas industry operations; the sustainable use of natural resources; accountability for damages; financial subsidies; an assessment of the oil and gas industry’s performance in relation to poverty eradication and environmental impacts; and case studies on Canadian tar sands, Arctic oil exploration, and the impacts of European oil and gas operations in Nigeria and Russia. The conference was a great success, and was given coverage on the BBC's Record Europe show. A photo exhibit showing the negative impact of extractive industries was also shown in France and Italy.
FoEI co-sponsored an event on Climate Change, Debt and Dissent, organized by Oilwatch South America and the Southern Peoples Creditors Alliance, 9-12 October 2009, in Quito, Ecuador. FoE Nigeria currently hosts the secretariat of Oilwatch Africa, and participated in the event, together with FoE Costa Rica.
Testimonies from mining communities also featured in FoEI’s new media projects. For example, a series of women from Sulawesi, Indonesia share their stories and struggles resisting mining activities by Canadian nickel mining corporation Vale Inco. The Chief of Mbikikiki village talks about water pollution caused by the construction of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline owned by Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas. Ada Zuñiga Hernandez from Honduras talks about the health impacts of mining activities by Canadian corporation, Goldcorp Inc, and a woman from Peru describes the feared destruction of an area because of plans by another Canadian company, Manhattan Minerals, to develop a gold mine in Tambogrande. A video produced by FoE Indonesia and FoE Netherlands that shows how tin mining in Indonesia is wrecking forests and coral reefs, and another short FoE Netherlands movie about oil pollution in Nigeria, "Back to Nature Travels Nigeria," can both be seen on YouTube.
FoEI also embarked on an ambitious project to create a series of video testimonies of women affected by large-scale metal mining. These 'Women Re-Sisters' are strong, impressive women who talk about the impacts of mining on their lives: their food, health, water, economic situation, land, families and personal security. They also share strategies for resistance and mobilization. Testimonies from women affected by mining in Bulgaria and Guatemala can currently be viewed on the FoEI YouTube channel. With deep respect and recognition for the work of the participating groups, and the sisters who were brave enough to feature in these films.
In 2009, FoEI groups around the world continued their national and regional campaigns against mining, oil and gas. Africa is focusing on conducting research into mining, shedding light on its negative effects. Asia also continues its struggle to support communities that resist mining. There have been some significant achievements.
In the Netherlands, for example, the first court hearing in the case against Shell, brought by four Nigerian victims of Shell oil leaks and FoE Netherlands is now underway. On 3 December 2009, this unique legal action started at the court in The Hague. Shell asked the court to rule that the Dutch court has no jurisdiction over Shell Nigeria. But on 30 December the court held that the Dutch court does have jurisdiction over the operations of Shell Nigeria. Given that Shell has now lost this point, an important hurdle has been overcome, and the 'real' lawsuit can begin. This is the first time in history that a Dutch company has been brought to trial in a Dutch court for damages occurring abroad. FoEI also collaborated with several organizations to publish "Shell's Big Dirty Secret," which documents Shell's continued investment in the dirtiest forms of energy and its position as the world's most carbon intensive oil company.
In the US, the ShellGuilty campaign launched by FoEI, Oil Change and Platform London, finally saw justice done in 2009. After legal battles lasting nearly fourteen years, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has also been forced to pay a US$15.5 million out-of-court settlement. Plaintiffs from the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta have successfully held Shell accountable for complicity in human rights atrocities committed against the Ogoni people in the 1990s, including the execution of writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
Some FoEI groups aim to change national mining laws through advocacy and legal routes. In December 2009, for example, FoE Hungary celebrated the introduction of a landmark ban on the use of cyanide in mining ten years after the tragic Baia Mare spill. It was passed with a virtually unprecedented majority. FoE Philippines has filed an Alternative Mining Bill, now known as House Bill 6342. The bill is intended to scrap and replace the Mining Act of 1995 and introduce a new mining policy to regulate the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources and to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits, including for the State, indigenous peoples and local communities.
Many FoE groups, including those seeking to change legislation, are working with local communities affected by mining to challenge the presence of specific mining and extraction companies more directly. For example:
- In January 2009, FoE Indonesia sent a complaint to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, following the Australian government’s failure to fulfil a promise to respond directly to Indonesian organizations challenging the activities of Australian mining companies. FoE Indonesia has compiled a dossier detailing the involvement of numerous Australian mining companies in environmental destruction and human rights violations.
- In February 2009, communities in Guatemala asked the legislature and the Ministry of Energy and Mines to issue a moratorium on mining licenses of all types, until reforms to the Mining Act are agreed with them. Social organizations in the affected municipalities claim that current amendments to the document do not provide for community interests.
- Also in February, and after years of being marginalized in relation to decisions about their ancestral lands, the Subanon people on Mindanao island came another step closer to asserting control over their territory. Their lands are currently being exploited by TVI Resource Development Phils (TVIRDI), a subsidiary of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific. Around 20 Subanon Indigenous People and farmers living within the TVIRDI mining area in Mount Canatuan, the Subanon tribe’s sacred site, halted blasting and drilling activities at the Canadian company’s open-pit mining operation, after a successful occupation of the site.
- In March 2009, the Ghana National Coalition on Mining, a group of communities affected by mining in Ghana and civil society organizations including FoE Ghana, opposed the Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency, which had granted environmental permits to Newmont Ghana Gold Limited and Adamus Resources to conduct surface gold mining activities.
- In September 2009, FoE Hungary published their first annual alternative report on the Hungarian Oil Company (MOL). The report held a mirror up to the company’s annual report and assessed the company’s activities in 2008. After examining company data, the authors gave examples showing that the company’s practices do not actually match up to its rhetoric.
- Also in September, FoE Costa Rica, together with and as part of Costa Rica’s popular movement, participated in a visit to mining company Crucitas, organized by the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, which had suspended Crucitas’s mining permit. There is a risk that the Supreme Court will favor the mining company, in which case FoE Costa Rica plans more mobilizations across the country, to stop this mining company restarting its activities.
- Again in September, FoE Guatemala organized an international mission to verify violations of human, environmental and economic rights by mining transnational corporations operating in Guatemala, such as GoldCorp. The aim of the mission was to ensure that the voices of victims, who are criminalized in Guatemala, can be heard at the international level. Participants included FoE Uruguay, FoE El Salvador, and FoE Costa Rica, together with people from Amnesty International and others.
Building strong networks and alliances against the mining and extractive industries is also a priority for the RMOG Program. For example, a new network in Colombia, the Colombian Network Against Mining, has been established to challenge transnational corporations operating in Colombia with the support of the Colombian government. One of the first acts of this network was to support the demands of workers and the population struggling against British Petroleum in Tauramena, Colombia.
Many other critical activities were also undertaken by the Federation in 2009. For example:
- In Nigeria, the Second National Consultation on the Environment, 25 - 26 November 2009, saw civil society leaders, community-based organizations, civil society organizations, development experts, academia, legal practitioners, the media and representatives of government agencies come together to consider a post-petroleum Nigeria. The event was organized by FoE Nigeria in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment.
- FoE Philippines and Alyansa Tigil Mina co-hosted a discussion on "Tracing the Gold, Tracing the Money," in Cagayan de Oro City on 29 June. The event was designed to give participants the knowledge and skills they need to find out how mining companies finance their activities and where they sell their products. This kind of research often reveals excellent intervention points for advocates wanting to stop mining operations in their localities.
- A new report from FoE Netherlands, "Mining Matters," which was published in June 2009, reviewed practices used in mining tin (in Indonesia, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burma), bauxite (Guinea and Jamaica), and copper (Chile, Peru, Zambia and Indonesia (Grasberg)). It also examined the policies of seven companies using imported metals in the Netherlands.
- Security forces arrested the director of FoE Indonesia and the Head of FoE Indonesia's Regional Department during a peaceful protest organized by FoE Indonesia and other NGOs together with fisherfolk organizations. The groups organized an event parallel to the World Ocean Conference (WOC) and Coal Triangle Summit 2009 which was held in Manado, Indonesia, 11-14 May. The peoples’ gathering was to draw the attention of WOC to small fisherfolks’ concerns – especially their call to ban the dumping of tailing minings into the sea - and to demand that these concerns be put on the WOC’s agenda.
- In 2009 Young FoE Norway’s priority campaign was against oil drilling off the beautiful Lofoten Islands, home to the world’s largest stock of cod and biggest cold water coral reef. They started several local groups in a network called "O`olkaction against oil drilling outside the Lofoten Islands." They also took a group of representatives from political youth parties out to the Lofoten Islands for one week, to highlight the fact that there are other possibilities besides drilling for oil in Northern Norway.
- FoE France has published a synthesis report "Public subsidies to fossil fuels in France and the European Union," which reveals that the wealthy oil industry benefited from French subsidies of over €400 million between 2004 and 2008, mainly in the form of export guarantees. FoE’s research also shows that €6 billion of European money has been given to the fossil fuel industry over the past five years.
The main areas of work of the program are:
- Community Resistance
- Campaign Against Corporations
- Policies and Mechanisms that Promote Mining, Oil and Gas
- Decreasing Consumption to Stop Demand for Mining, Oil and Gas
coordinators and participants
Co-coordinator: Natalia Atz Sunuc, FoE Guatemala
Co-coordinator: Romel Cardenas de Vera, FoE Philippines
The RMOG steering group includes:
- For Africa, Chima Williams, FoE Nigeria
- For APac, Natalie Lowrey, Australia
- For ATALC, Andres Idarraga, Colombia
- For Europe, Geert Ritsema, Netherlands
- For North America, Adina Matisoff, FoE USA
This is a new FoEI program and the co-coordinators and steering group are still in the processing of developing and implementing a fully-fledged strategy and workplan. Groups that have expressed an interest in participating include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curacao, El Salvador, FoE Europe, EWNI, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Togo and the US.