Report: Opening Pandora’s Box - Land Grabbing and Extractive Industries
Opening Pandora’s Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth, was launched in Westminster on Wednesday 29th February
Launched today, this report signals a wake-up call to the fact that the scale, expansion and acceleration of these industries are far greater than most of us realise. We are no longer talking about isolated pockets of destruction and pollution. Nowadays, chances are that, no matter where you live on Earth, land acquisitions for mining, oil and gas might soon be at your door. This trend is now a major driver of land grabbing globally, and poses a significant threat to the world’s indigenous communities, farmers and local food production systems, as well as to precious water, forests, biodiversity, critical ecosystems and climate change.
This report alerts global citizens to the dynamics in the extractive industries as a whole, and shows the alarming scale of this overall trend. Just as in the Greek myth, when Pandora opened the box and let out all the troubles known to mortals, so too this new wave of land grabbing for mining is leading to unimaginable destruction. If hope does remain, we must wake-up and act now.
The extent and the scale of the increase in extraction over the last 10 years is staggering. For example, iron ore production is up by 180%; cobalt by 165%; lithium by 125%, and coal by 44%. The increase in prospecting has also grown exponentially, which means this massive acceleration in extraction will continue if concessions are granted as freely as they are now.
The period between 2005-2010 has seen China’s mining sector grow by nearly a third. In Peru, mining exports for 2011 have increased an astonishing one-third in one year, and the region of Puno in the South of the country has seen mineral concessions almost tripled between 2002 and 2010. In South Africa meanwhile, a consortium of international investors has applied for the rights to drill for shale oil and gas for a section covering around 10% of the country’s surface.
Across Latin America, Asia and Africa, more and more community lands, rivers and ecosystems are being despoiled, displaced and devoured by mining activities. Enormous industrial wastelands are created from vast open pit mines and mountain top removal; voracious use and poisoning of water systems; deforestation; contamination of precious topsoil; air pollution; acid leaching; cancer clusters - the catalogue of devastation is relentless and growing.
The rights of farming and indigenous communities are increasingly ignored in the race to grab land and water. Each wave of new extractive technologies requires ever more water to wrench the material from its source. The hunger for these materials is a growing threat to the necessities for life: water, fertile soil and food. The implications are obvious.
"This report shows clearly how the game has changed over the last decade: the grabbing of land and resources is penetrating ever more deeply into the body of the Earth. Governments are becoming the shoe-shine boys for the extractive industries. We urgently need to set up an international system which holds those ravaging the planet to account. This is not Nigeria’s problem or the Gulf of Mexico’s problem; this is everyone’ problem. The devastating impact being inflicted on ecosystems and communities must be recognised as international crimes and punished accordingly. Directors of corporations need to be held accountable for the damage they inflict on the planet."
Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action
"What a timely report. No other report to date tackles the thorny issues that plague us; in Europe we are switching from coal to natural gas without any thought for the adverse impact fracking will have upon us all. Our right to life is being put at risk by dangerous industrial activities and no-one is speaking for the Earth. Where our states have the knowledge that industry is causing ecocide, they are under a duty to close down the extractive industries that cause risk of loss or injury to life. This report whistleblows the evidence: no longer can governments claim to have no knowledge of the adverse impact of fracking, land grabbing and mining. This new wave of land grabbing is putting profit above people and planet. Only when we close the door to ecocide will people and planet come first. When we do that the Earth’s right to life will be secured."
Polly Higgins, Barrister and author of Eradicating Ecocide
"The challenges that we face today in our dysfunctional food system will only truly be addressed when people start to connect the dots beyond agriculture per se. Mining can have a huge negative impact on food availability: when it removes productive farmland from farmers; when it consumes and contaminates vital water resources; when it works hand in hand with the corporations which control the industrial food system that places priority on the large-scale and global markets, not people, ecosystems and sustainability. The warnings of this report must be taken seriously. Organisations and groups of concerned citizens must work together to challenge the startlingly unsustainable growth of the mining industry that feeds avarice, undermining peoples food sovereignty".
Patrick Mulvany, Chair, UK Food Group
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