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Community mining consultations in Latin America (2002–2012): The contested emergence of a hybrid institution for participation
From 2002 to 2012, 68 community consultations/referenda on large-scale mining activities have been conducted in Latin America challenging centralized decision-making procedures. These consultations are fostered by communities and social movements and usually supported by local governments. Around 700,000 people have participated, expressing a massive rejection of mining activities in Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. Community consultations have contributed to ease local tensions temporarily, slowing down or stopping mining projects in some cases. This paper analyses the process of emergence and spread of such consultations exploring how they challenge the governance of mining activities. We claim that community consultations are being institutionalized in the context of mining conflicts in Latin America. Consultations are not isolated experiences but constitute a strategy diffused and transformed in the midst of multi-scalar social learning processes where social movements exchange strategies and discourses and a hybridising process occurs in relation to political and cultural local features. We sustain that community consultations are a hybrid institution where non-state and state actors and formal and informal institutions are mobilized. Consultations are a strategic tool of social movements and a contested emergent institution – as different state bodies support or reject their validity – that reclaim the right of affected populations and indigenous peoples to participate, in empowering forms, in high-stake decisions that affect their territories, livelihoods and future.