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Water is Life A new toolkit for frontline communities defending water from mining

“You cannot separate the land from the water, or the people from the land.” - Lynn Noel.

On World Water Day 2019, the global Yes to Life, No to Mining Network, The Gaia Foundation have launched a new toolkit dedicated to and designed for communities defending water systems from mining around the planet.

Learn more about this new toolkit and how you can help it reach the communities who need it…

Water and Mining

The mining industry is deeply involved in the creation of a global water crisis. Water intensive and complicit in the destruction of ecosystems critical to the proper functioning of the water cycle, mining is capable of polluting water bodies over vast distances.

'The river is dead'. Mine waste released by the Samarco Tailings Dam disaster in 2015 travelled more than 500 kilometres downriver to the sea. 19 people lost their lives in the disaster. Photograph: UNEP

Even when a mine has closed, its impacts on water may continue to worsen and spread for centuries, leaving a toxic legacy for future generations.

In 2015, mine waste water leaking from the long-abandoned Gold King Mine, Colorado, USA, turned the Animas River bright yellow. According to the U.S. EPA, there are an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines in the US alone. Photo: RuidosNews

Despite these impacts, when mining companies first arrive in new areas, they frequently mislead communities about their potential impact.

A lack of information about the impacts of mining is frequently cited as a major barrier to public education and popular organising by communities, especially in hard-to-reach areas. The new Water is Life Toolkit seeks to fill this gap.

The Water is Life Toolkit

The Water is Life Toolkit shares crucial information about both mining’s impacts on local water systems and the global watercycle, helping join the dots between local and global struggles to protect water. The toolkit also contains information on the human right to water.

Water is Life poster- one part of the toolkit- available to download for free from the new Water is Life website: http://www.waterislifetoolkit.org/

Revolving around a downloadable infographic poster designed for community spaces, the new online toolkit takes readers through the impacts of mining, the value of clean water and the importance of defending water in order to realise other human rights.

The toolkit also includes:

  • Video tools from the New Media Advocacy project, sharing lessons from communities who have or are responding to mining threats:
  • Research reports from The Gaia Foundation sharing more detail on mining’s role in the water crisis and an animation sharing taking the viewer on a journey through a water cycle free from- , then impacted-by mining.
  • A guide to protecting your community from mining, written by Ecuadorian activist Carlos Zorilla.

Available in English, Spanish and French, and optimised for use and sharing via mobile/cell phone, the toolkit is designed with frontline communities in mind.

The Water is Life Toolkit was co-produced by the 10 regional coordinators of the YLNM Network, who brought together experiences anti-extractivism movements on every inhabited continent. The coordinators worked together to identify the need for a toolkit focused on water, the design of the infographic and extra tools for the website.

Help us spread the Water is Life Toolkit

First printed in 2018, the infographic poster has already been distributed worldwide by the YLNM Network, reaching communities resisting mining in Colombia, Finland, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, the UK, Australia and Canada.

Citizens of municipalities holding popular consultations on mining issues in Colombia examine the water is life toolkit posters. Photos: YLNM

The aim of making this a digital toolkit is to reach as many frontline communities with the toolkit as possible. Here’s how you can help us:

If you are from a frontline community…

  • Download and print the Water is Life poster and share it with your community. You could print small pocket-versions to give out, or a big version to put up in community meeting spaces.
  • Contact YLNM via yestolifenotomining@gmail.com to join our network and unite with other communities in solidarity.

If you work for an organisation or network supporting frontline communities defending water…

  • Share the Water is Life website with your community allies
  • Share the Water is Life website with your wider networks via email and social media using #WaterisLife and #WorldWaterDay2019.
  • Help us translate the toolkit further- contact yestolifenotomining@gmail.com to collaborate.

If you’re an individual who cares about these issues…

  • Share the Water is Life Toolkit with your friends, family and colleagues on social media using #WaterisLife and #WorldWaterDay2019
  • Contact us if you have ideas for creative projects sharing or drawing on the toolkit, via yestolifenotomining@gmail.com

Stories from YLNM: Celebrating Water Defenders

A traditional house built in the rainforest alongside the Napo River in Ecuador. Indigenous and peasant farming communities are defending water systems from mining across this hyper-biodiverse nation. Photo: Adobe Stock via The Gaia Foundation

The Water is Life Toolkit is dedicated to the communities around the world who are putting their lives on the line to defend sources of healthy water for humanity and our relatives in the living world.

The Yes to Life No to Mining Network is made up of many such communities. On World Water Day, we celebrate them and encourage you to read more deeply into their work. Here are a few inspiring examples…

Selkie, Finland

In a lake-rich region of Eastern Finland, the community of Selkie successfully closed down an opencast peat mine that was polluting their rivers. Since then, with the support of YLNM members the Snowchange Cooperative, they have dedicated themselves to re-wilding this damaged waterscape using a blend of traditional knowledge and science. Their success can be seen in the return of fish to the rivers, restored marshes, wetlands and thousands of birds setting down on their winter migrations. Find out more…

The Linnunsuo marshmire- formerly a peat mine- has been re-wetted as the focus of major, community-led efforts to restore ecosystems to health. Swans and other species of fish and birds are returning as, year-on-year, Linnunsuo and the Jukajoki River System return to health. Photos: Snowchange Cooperative

Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea

Canadian miner Nautilus Minerals hopes to open the world’s first commercial deep sea mine- the Solwara 1 Project- off the coast of Papua New Guinea. But thanks to a powerful grassroots campaign led by local coastal communities united as the Alliance of Solwara Warriors, the company is on the verge of giving up. With international allies, the Alliance has popularised the call for a ban on deep sea mining, which has become a global issue. Find out more...

Deep Sea Mining is being pushed by the industry as a solution to getting 'green' minerals and metals for constructing renewable energy technologies. Companies claim this experimental technology will have fewer human and ecological impacts. The Alliance of Solwara Warriors disagree. Photos: Deep Sea Mining Campaign, BankTrack

Sperrins Mountains, Northern Ireland

Dalradian Resources hopes to open a gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains, and to build a cyanide processing plant on a ridge straddled by two local rivers that are home to otters, Atlantic salmon and rare freshwater pearl mussels. Dalradian’s plans have been met with huge resistance from groups like YLNM members Save Our Sperrins, who have travelled far and wide, protested and raised over 10,000 rejection letters to stop the project. Find out more...

Signs adorn the Sperrin Mountains around the community of Greencastle with versions of one message- Dalradian Out! The community of Greencastle and their allies in Northern Ireland and beyond are resisting the Curraginhalt goldmine, which Dalradian CEO Patrick Anderson says could be the first of many in a 'mining district'. Photos: Save Our Sperrins

Xolobeni, South Africa

On South Africa’s Wild Coast, the coastal Amadiba Community have been fighting a long battle to protect their beaches, rivers and fishing traditions from mining. Australian miner Mineral Resources Limited is seeking to gouge minerals from sand dunes along the coast. Through blockades, court cases and protests, the Amadiba People of Xolobeni have so far stopped the project and helped establish major precedents for communities’ ‘Right to Say No’ to mining on their lands. Find out more…

South Africa's Wild Coast- an area of pristine beauty and ancestral home of the Mpondo People. A majority of the Amadiba community are opposed to mining and have been involved in a deadly struggle to stop it. Community leader Bazooka Rhadebe (bottom left) was killed for opposing the mine. Photos: ACC, AIDC, UNEP.

Cajamarca, Colombia

In March 2017, citizens of the Colombian municipality of Cajamarca voted to ban mining from their territory in a revolutionary popular consultation (local referendum). Their victory protected rivers, cloud forests and andean water-producing ecosystems from destruction by gold mining and triggered a national wave of popular consultations- a movement for democracy and peace, and against mining conflict. Cajamarca is now leading the way in developing local alternatives to mining. Find out more…

The mountainous, biodiverse and hyper-fertile municipality of Cajamarca celebrates its successful rejection of AngolGold Ashanti's La Colosa gold mine. Local youth, farmers, business owners, politicians and artists are building an alternative future together here. Photos: COSAJUCA, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida.

Thank you…

YLNM and Gaia would like to thank France Libertés and Patagonia for their support in making the Water is Life Toolkit a reality. We would also like to thank Carlos Zorilla, author of the “Guide to protecting your community from extractivism”, the New Media Advocacy Project for granting us permission to include their video guides and Natalie Lowrey for the beautiful web design.

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Yes to Life, No to Mining YLNM
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