Community mining consultations in Latin America (2002–2012): The contested emergence of a hybrid institution for participation

ArticleinGeoforum · September 2015with735 Reads
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.

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  • ... Estas concepciones se relacionan con consideraciones de la teoría democrática participativa ( Schiller 2007;Bachrach y Botwiniek 1992;Sauer 2002Sauer y 2009). Es importante mencionar en este punto que, si bien en las ciencias sociales ya existen estudios sobre las oportunidades, motivaciones y condiciones que apoyan la implementación y difusión de consultas populares como mecanismo de protesta ( McNeish 2017;Renauld 2016;Segura Romero 2017;Walter y Urkidi 2017), sus repercusiones políticas, potencialidades y límites de movilización y democratización de la minería son pocos estudiados. Este análisis de tipo cualitativo se basa en un estudio de caso que empezó en el 2014, y que continúa hoy en día, sobre conflictos en torno al extractivismo minero en Colombia. ...
  • ... The former included corporate social responsibility practices, community consultations, participatory environmental mon- itoring, and community-engagement practices ( Ballard and Banks, 2003;Himley, 2014;Mayes et al., 2014;Özkaynak et al., 2015;Sadler and Lloyd, 2009;Walter and Urkidi, 2017), whereas the latter included the use of repressive state force (Banerjee, 2011;Gerber, 2011;Jaskoski, 2014;Özkaynak et al., 2012, 2015Pedersen, 2014). While the impact of consent-seeking practices on local communities has attracted some scholarly attention ( Ballard and Banks, 2003;Bustos et al., 2017;Haalboom, 2012;Himley, 2014;Mayes et al., 2014;Walter and Urkidi, 2017), the impact of repression on local mobilizations, communities, and other mobilizations remained largely unexplored. What happens after repression? ...
  • ... regulations, management and communication) and different forms of power (e.g. legitimacy, networks, resources, trust) of social movements and local governments" ( Walter & Urkidi, 2015, p. 12). Viewed in terms of the concept of sovereignties in conflict, this exercise of local sovereignty points up the tension between legality and legitimacy. ...
  • ... The first consulta that took place in 2002 in Tambogrande, Peru, emerged as the Peruvian government issued measures to limit public participation rights and negotiation attempts where failing (Haarstad and Fløysand, 2007;Bebbington, 2012a). Since then more than 74 consultas have been carried in six different countries with communities rejecting extractive projects (Duthie, 2012;Walter and Urkidi, 2015). According to Walter and Urkidi (2015), these consultas entail the construction of a new scale of regulation, whereby local communities defend the local as the legitimate scale of decision-making on whether a project is to go forward or not. ...
  • ... In response to the dissatisfaction with centralized procedures for participation of affected local groups, since 2002 numerous communities in Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador have organized their own consultation processes. Usually initiated by civil society groups and supported by the local government, these new consultations have allowed for peaceful and participatory expressions of the widespread civic discontent with top-down decision-making on large extractive projects ( Walter and Urkidi, 2015). These divergent perspectives on the role of extractive industries have generated polarized debates that have not been able to address critically the core issues of state revenues generated by extractive industries nor the socio-environmental costs associated with extraction. ...
  • ... Resisting an extractivist project in the face of impunity for pollution often inspires the quest for more localized and democratic forms of governing resources and commons. Meanwhile, the broad global purview of the atlas can help discern how democratic and ultimately transformative processes that arise in response to extractive processes move from the individual to the community level and then disseminate outwards [78]. The result will be deeper understanding of the creativity and the productivity of environmental conflicts. ...
  • ... In particular , natural resource exploitation is an industrial activity that has recently been generating conflicts between firms and indigenous communities in many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Examples include Mexico (Tetreault, 2015), Guatemala (Walter and Urkidi, 2015), India (Sosa, 2011), Peru (Arellano-Yanguas, 2011), Sierra Leone (Akiwumi, 2014) and Indonesia (Welker, 2009). Indirectly, land tenure also has a major influence in labour policy (Dell, 2010). ...
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