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Media contact:

Jan Morrill – Tailings Campaign Manager, Earthworks
jmorrill@earthworksaction.org, Phone: +1 207 542 4360

Fabienne Krebs (English, German) – Program Coordinator (Business & Human Rights), Society for Threatened Peoples
Fabienne.Krebs@gfbv.ch, +41 79 889 84 83

Diego Marin – Policy Officer for Raw Materials and Resource Justice, European Environmental Burea
diego.marin@eeb.org, +32 470 19 41 37

Geneva, Switzerland — As the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) gears up for its global intergovernmental consultation on mineral governance this September 7-8 in Geneva, representatives from mining-impacted communities and Indigenous Peoples worldwide are poised to present their demands for robust mining regulations.

These advocates urgently call on the UNEA and its member states to ensure the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Indigenous Peoples involved in extraction projects. Furthermore, they are demanding higher mine waste safety standards, urging governments to hold mining companies accountable for damages, and stressing the importance of circular economy policies that emphasize recycling, reuse, repair, and superior product design, with the goal of reducing the global necessity for new mines.

“We know that business as usual in the mining sector doesn’t work. We need our leaders to ensure strong environmental protections and community involvement across the lifecycle of the mine, including in mine waste management,” said Hassen Lorgat of the Bench-Marks Foundation of South Africa. “The UNEA Global Consultation is an opportunity for governments and regulators around the world to ensure that the risks and dangers of the mining industry don’t continue to harm communities, ecosystems and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is our collective task to ensure that these commitments are realised on the ground where many people have not benefited from mining and greed extractivism.”

As they gather in Switzerland, these representatives also challenge the Swiss gold sector and government. Given that Switzerland oversees about 70% of the world’s gold trade and refining, there’s a heightened responsibility to uphold impeccable mining standards, ensuring community safety, Indigenous rights, and transparency over the gold flows.

“We see firsthand how poorly regulated mines adversely affect our water, air, crops and even our health. Mining companies say they bring progress, but we are one of the poorest provinces in our country, even though we live next to one of the largest gold mines in the world,” said Leoncia Ramos from the Comite Nuevo Renacer in the Dominican Republic. “Governments and the UNEA need to find ways to protect communities and the environment from dangerous mining impacts, and make sure they have secured FPIC for all projects.”

The mining sector’s current practices present severe risks, ranging from environmental degradation to human rights breaches. The industry’s detrimental impacts underscore the urgency for UNEA member states to champion responsible mineral governance, prioritizing the health of ecosystems, Indigenous communities, and generations to come.

According to Lorena Curuaia, Vice President of the Iawá community in the Brazilian Amazon, “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted in 2007 protects the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples to land, resources, and territory, yet dangerous mining practices have repeatedly and historically  threatened those rights. There is no shortage of examples when it comes to Brazil, and the impacts in the Amazon region are incalculable and irreparable. This is why the UNEA consultations must support a process to codify UNDRIP in such a way as to guarantee the full exercise of our self-determination as Indigenous Peoples, as well as the processes of consultation and Free Prior Informed Consent in binding documents. This is essential not only to respect our human rights as Indigenous Peoples but especially to honor our ancestral connection with Nature and its commons, our wisdom and traditional knowledge, without leaving anyone behind.”

Background on UNEA’s Engagement with Minerals Governance

In 2022, UNEA passed a resolution emphasizing the imperative of environmentally sustainable mineral management. Recognizing the regulatory challenges nations encounter in supervising the mining sector, the UNEA initiated a series of consultations this year. These dialogues, aimed at evaluating current strategies and discerning future directions, will culminate in a Global Consultation in Geneva.

About the European Environmental Bureau

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations. We bring together over 180 member organisations from 40 countries. We stand for sustainable development, environmental justice & participatory democracy.

About Earthworks

Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while seeking sustainable solutions.

About Society for Threatened Peoples

The Society for Threatened Peoples is an international human rights organization that advocates for threatened ethnic and religious minorities, nationalities and indigenous communities.