What is Tungsten?
Tungsten means 'heavy stone' in Swedish
Also known as Wolfram ('wolf dirt' in German), it is the strongest natural metal on Earth.
It has played a central role in the evolution of military technology in the 20th Century.
For example, tungsten mined at San Finx contributed to the manufacture of high velocity shells with a tungsten carbide core, first used by Nazi armed forces to pierce the armour of British tanks.
Vital to a variety of emerging military, renewable energy and consumer technologies, demand for tungsten is predicted to skyrocket again in coming decades.
A legacy of destruction
The collapse of international metal prices in the 1980s led to the collapse of mining operations in San Finx and other similar developments. Mines were abandoned, while administrations turned a blind eye to lack of restoration, pollution from acid mine drainage and safety threats from the scattered pits and shafts.
It was left to communities like Frojám to take on restoration efforts at their own expense, sealing off hazardous pits and replanting degraded areas with trees.
In spite of being abandoned, the concession holders at San Finx maintained the fiction of activity at the mine until the year 2000 to avoid the expiration of their permits. During this time the owners also continued to show hostility toward common land communities like Frojám that unilaterally took action to re-occupy the lands that had been taken by mining and degraded for decades.
In the late 1990s, the San Finx Mine Director threatened to cut down trees planted over former mining grounds, saying:
“You plant them, but we’ll see who fells them”.
'Critical minerals': a mine re-born
The recovery of metal prices in the second half of the 2000s, immediately after the burst of the Spanish property bubble, brought about a new, highly speculative and on-going rush to extract metal ores in Galicia, backed by EU policies incentivising the domestic extraction of 'critical' raw materials, including tin and tungsten.
What is an ICCA?
- A people or community closely connected to a well-defined territory;
- Where the community is the major player in decision-making (governance) about, and management of, the territory;
- And the community's management decisions and efforts lead to the conservation of the territory and associated cultural values.
Frojám has focused resistance efforts on gaining greater recognition for its status as a commons, cared for and shared by and for the community; a status that is anathema to the privatised, market-oriented world of mining corporations and states.
The village has achieved this through strategic engagement with new paradigms of protected areas; actively re-occupying and regenerating lands occupied by the State and mining companies; and creating horizontal connections with new allies locally, regionally and globally.
The main obstacle small rural communities resisting large, sometimes multinational, corporations face is the perception that 'it’s only us against them'. The feeling of impotence and fear of reprisals that arises from this mindset is often paralyzing.
As in the traditional Hawaiian ahupua‘a mountain-to-sea ecosystems, a sense emerged that a watershed root-system of action needed to be nurtured in response to mining in Galiza- from the headwater forests where Frojám lies, to the beaches and mussel gathering sand banks in the estuary, where the rivers born in the forests empty into the sea.
The circle of concern has already widened significantly, as Frojám has joined and found allies in regional anti-mining network ContraMINAccíon, and collectives of citizens and associations concerned about water, like Vida e Ría.
The people of Frojám have also reached out beyond Galiza and Spain to build wider networks. In March 2017, Frojám welcomed visitors from around the world. Delegates from the international Yes to Life No to Mining Network- hailing from Australia, Finland, Philippines, New Zealand, Nigeria, Colombia and the UK- exchanged views and facilitated a discussion among a dozen groups in the wider Lousame area.
Re-connecting with the land
In Frojám, as the conflict with the mine peaked in 2016, the idea of opening the commons to schools and families from around the area was raised, seeking to engage children and their parents with how Galizan communities feel and relate to their land.
The interruption of intergenerational continuity in the stewardship of common land communities and their commons is as threatening as dispossession, and eventually leads to the extinction of communities.
In March 2017, two schools (approximately 150 participants) initiated the Montescola Programme in Frojám, restoring an area previously degraded by acacia and eucalyptus trees and mining pits and shafts.
ICCAs represent a paradigm shift from conventional state-centric approaches to the conservation of protected areas, by recognizing the crucial role of indigenous peoples and local communities and their customary practices in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity.
This new approach, acknowledged since 2004 by a number of decisions of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is also creating new paths for ICCAs to organize and collaborate at regional and global scales, including active involvement in shifting international regulations and creating new institutions and procedures based on community governance and decision making.
Read more about the ecology of Frojám Commons Woodlands in the ICCA Registry.
Find out more about the Frojám Community's efforts to plant 10,000 native trees and restore wet heaths, rehabilitating areas damaged by mining and the introduction of species like Eucalyptus and Acacia
Watch documentary San Finx 1960 to learn about the struggle to protect Galician waterways from mine waste.