Summary of research findings from Red Chimpu Warmi in Bolivia.

Key words: mining, memory and territory

We focused on these issues due to the need that exists in the Jacha Marka Tapacarí Condor Apacheta (JMTCA) territory to have a dossier with specific information about the defense of the territory against processes of subjugation and dispossession, in recent times by private mining. We wanted to strengthen the exercise of indigenous and farmers’ rights of the JMTCA population, in order for them to defend against the onslaught of miners.

Many things have been speculated and these speculations have generated fear and an alliance between parts of the political power and the corporation. We decided to confront corporate capture by extracting the information from the historical archives that allowed us to verify the land rights of the community and the illegality of the mining operations. Having the most orderly documentation possible is the only way to break this situation of confusion, fear and exploitation. We also found it very important to map the impacts of mining, and reflecting the perspectives of women and children who are affected.

Data collection methods used: historical archives documentation, community mapping, focus group discussions, video documentation

Research findings:

We found that there is illegal encroachment by the mining company NILSER SRL in the JMTCA, based on documentary research on the legality of the mining concession and its activity within the territory. We also found a breach of the right to prior consultation by the Mining Administrative Jurisdictional Authority in granting the concession to the corporation, despite the resolutions of the indigenous authorities against it. It was possible to string together the entire history of the case of the mining company NILZER SRL but also to paralyze it, in addition to a commitment to compensation for damages; however the latter has not materialized yet. This dossier is very important, especially due to the lack of information formally requested from State institutions (for example, the Mining Administrative Jurisdictional Authority).

We also found strong bias of State officials in favor of the mining company as they generate income that benefits the execution of projects, creating misinformation and intimidation towards the indigenous authorities. The institutional conditions prioritize the value of mining activity because they are believed to provide royalties to local and departmental governments for the execution of projects and they they generate jobs; leaving in a situation of subordination and diminishing the rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect their systems of life, their survival resources such as water, as well as to exercise their territorial rights in light with their belief of the understanding of the territory as Pachamama, a life-giving entity. This discriminatory relationship can be considered a neocolonial model of subordinate treatment in detriment of the rights of Indigenous Nations and Peoples. This situation also gives them the power to intimidate via corporate deterrence, and to co-opt support based on promises to grant goods and services in support of community members who accept the mining activity, generating divisions and tensions.

A lot of documentation management and legal support was provided to the indigenous authorities before the Agro-Environmental Tribunal of the Oruru Department. We also made progress in a criminal charge before the Public Ministry for crimes of “illegal exploitation of natural resources, illegal sale of natural resources and destruction and deterioration of the State’s assets” against the company. The organic action and the exercise of indigenous farmer’s jurisdiction of the JMTCA were strengthened.

It was possible to reconstruct the history of defense and legalization of the territorial rights of the JMTCA, its reconstitution process and its historical role in the region. A timeline was produced that reconstructs the main milestones in the history of the JMTCA.

The perceptions of women, youth and children on the impacts of mining were also identified. It was very important to find a way to visualize these impacts, through maps, illustrations and videos, and to allow children to participate in this process. It is worth highlighting that the culture of bias towards mining activities violates the rights of the local population, since it does not measure their liabilities and environmental impacts and rather focuses on short-term rentier profits. Therefore, it does not pay attention to the socioeconomic impacts caused by pollution and desertification, such as the annihilation of economic traditional systems based on agriculture; the deterioration of the bases for food security and food sovereignty; the displacement of populations in search of other economic strategies; the disintegration of the social fabric; nor the affectation to the physical and emotional health of populations, particularly children.

Based on what you have learned from this research, what would you like to say to decision-makers?

It is urgent to develop intercultural management capacities in the treatment of issues related to mining, from the concession itself to the procedures that imply the rights of indigenous peoples. For example, it would be possible to have a geo-referenced system that overlaps indigenous territories and mining grids, of easy access and at the simple request of indigenous authorities or mining stakeholders. It would also be possible to develop prior consultation protocols adapted to international standards and constitutional law.

It is urgent to make a cost-benefit assessment of mining and environmental impacts, as well as of the liabilities and environmental conditions in which it leaves the Oruro territory; the social and cultural cost that it implies, in addition to the cost of the sustainability of life. This would open the eyes to political actors who, with knowledge of the facts, would make more transparent decisions.

Develop skills about the environment and the productive potential of the region to ensure the well-being of the population. Develop complementary and sustainably economic productive initiatives.

Declare as municipal and departmental patrimony the remaining freshwater resources and implement watershed and microwatershed management programs in coordination with local populations. This is a critical issue in the region.

How do you plan to use these research results?

The JMTCA has historically marked milestones on the indigenous emancipatory movement and in the reconstruction of the memory of defense of the right to its territory; and now it marks a new on because the Peñas canyon – where the JMTCA is located – is struggling for its survival in the middle of a contaminated desert. What they do is already setting the standard, for example, with respect to the filing of the lawsuit at the Agro-Environmental Tribunal. They continue to be allies of the Oruro movement in the resistance against mining contamination.

These results will be used in three ways:

  1. As a pedagogical memory and permanent information tool for the population and authorities of JMTCA, to strengthen indigenous jurisdiction and to face misinformation and corporate capture with information.
  2. As an input to advance in the defense of the proprietary right of the TIOC JMTCA and towards respect for the collective and individual rights of its population.
  3. As an input to propose comprehensive management programs for water sources and the implementation of an indigenous productive economic program.


Listen to some of the audioclips developed during the research