Four Mining Activists Honored with 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize

The annual prize is the biggest award recognizing grassroots environmental leaders

San Francisco, CA — Today, the Goldman Environmental Foundation awarded six grassroots environmental activists the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Four out of six of this year’s Prize winners are fighting to stop mining and drilling projects near their homes and communities.

For the past 27 years, the Goldman Environmental Prize has honored grassroots heroes from the world’s six inhabited regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America. The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment. Their specific fights cover a wide range of environmental challenges, highlighting the most critical issues of their time.

“We send our congratulations and appreciation to the Goldman Environmental Prize winners for their incredible work to protect water, land and health from toxic pollution. These heroes have risked their lives to defend their communities from irresponsible extraction, whether it is bauxite mining in India, oil drilling in the Democratic Republic of Congo, nickel mining in Guatemala or coal mining in Australia,” said Payal Sampat, Earthworks’ Mining Program Director. “We hope this much-deserved recognition will draw attention to the many communities around the world who are fighting dirty mining and drilling.”

The 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize winners are:

  • PRAFULLA SAMANTARA, India An iconic leader of social justice movements in India, Prafulla Samantara led a historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminum ore (bauxite) mine.
  • RODRIGO TOT, Guatemala An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community.
  • RODRIGUE MUGARUKA KATEMBO, Democratic Republic of Congo Putting his life on the line, Rodrigue Katembo went undercover to document and release information about bribery and corruption in the quest to drill for oil in Virunga National Park, resulting in public outrage that forced the company to withdraw from the project.
  • WENDY BOWMAN, Australia In the midst of an onslaught of coal development in Australia, octogenarian Wendy Bowman stopped a powerful multinational mining company from taking her family farm and protected her community in Hunter Valley from further pollution and environmental destruction.
  • UROS MACERL, Slovenia Uroš Macerl, an organic farmer from Slovenia, successfully stopped a cement kiln from co-incinerating petcoke with hazardous industrial waste by rallying legal support from fellow activists and leveraging his status as the only citizen allowed to challenge the plant’s permits.
  • MARK! LOPEZ, United States Born and raised in a family of community activists, mark! Lopez persuaded the state of California to provide comprehensive lead testing and cleanup of East Los Angeles homes contaminated by a battery smelter that had polluted the community for over three decades.

The award winners will be honored tonight at a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House and at a second event in Washington, DC on Wednesday.