The Yes to Life, No to Mining Global Solidarity Network, of which Gaia is a proud member, recently joined 340 anti-mining activists from around the world to reaffirm the right to resist extractivism. Over four days in Semarang, Indonesia, the Thematic Social Forum (TSF) on Mining and Extractivism brought activists together to share stories of resistance, discuss challenges, strategise, connect, and forge new links to energise our efforts.

A series of powerful workshops were led by activists from 60 countries. Topics ranged from novel legal approaches to fighting mining licences, like the use of the Rights of Nature in Los Cedros, Ecuador, to the gendered effects of mining, the pivotal roles of women in resistance and the importance of coming together to mobilise. We also discussed the rising militarisation and criminal violence faced by mining-affected communities, as well as drawing connections between the war economy and mining. A key theme at the forum was The Right to Say No to mining, with activists asserting that sovereignty over territories and decision-making should lie in the communities that live there, not in government offices, nor corporate mining lobbies.

The YLNM team in Indonesia

The YLNM team in Indonesia (photograph by Babawale Obayanju)

A New Fight Against “Green” Mining

From around the world delegates voiced concern about new aggressive greenwashing tactics coming from corporations and governments, pushing for ‘green’ mining for the ‘Green Transition’ and ultimately an intensification of land dispossession and destruction from mining. Industrialised nations, seeking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, propose the transition to alternative technologies like electric vehicles. However, instead of addressing the issues of consumption, this business-as-usual framing of the problem will require monumental quantities of minerals, including many which are deemed ‘critical’ or ‘transition minerals’ for components like lithium batteries. The EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) aims to secure access to these “critical minerals” by enabling and fast-tracking new mines both within and outside Europe. The EU and other Western states are pushing through similar policy strategies in a race for resources with China.

A Mapuche delegate from Argentina, where lithium mining is already a huge problem, said “the Global North continues perpetuating a proposal of death in our communities”. Her community will see none of the benefits of this transition, only the devastation of their environment and communities as a sacrificial zone for the ‘Green Transition’. Another delegate from Zimbabwe asked, these minerals “are critical to who? Not critical to us. Nothing changes in the extractive and destructive logic of mining. It is only repackaged as ‘Green Economy’.”

Right to Say No Talk at TSF - Photograph courtesy of TSF

Right to Say No Talk at TSF (photograph by TSF)

Ocean Defenders Against Deep Sea Mining

Ocean defenders from Fiji and the Pacific Islands discussed the threat of deep-sea mining and the ‘blue economy’, bringing destruction to our oceans – our largest commons – as if devouring land was not enough for ever-expanding economic growth. A small island of 13,000 people in the Pacific, Nauru has triggered a process in the UN to develop a legal framework for deep-sea mining. Nauru is infamous for being the location of an Australian migrant detention centre and for a history of political scandals involving Australian mining companies. Now corporations are lobbying governments around the world to allow companies to dredge and mine the seabed of vast areas of our oceans for their own profit – damaging extremely fragile ecosystems. As ocean peoples, many other Pacific Islanders are the most vociferous against deep-sea mining as they already suffer from the consequences of terrestrial mining and rely on the oceans for their livelihoods and wellbeing.

Kendeng Mountains Solidarity Visit

On the final day of the forum, delegates were split into three groups for solidarity visits to local communities fighting resource extraction. The three local struggles were the Jepara community fighting sand mining, the Dieng mountains where the community is resisting a contaminating geothermal plant, and the Kendeng Mountains.

In the Kendeng Mountains, Sukolilo village and various communities are united in fighting several cement companies, including IndoCement, a subsidiary of German multinational Heidelberg Cement. The Sukolilo community generously shared with us rice and produce from their farms. Showing us their local springs, the children introduced us to the cave system – joyfully throwing themselves into the water that runs throughout. The subterranean river systems in the limestone mountains provide all the community’s water, including farm irrigation. For the community water has both a spiritual and practical importance. One of Kendeng’s leaders said “If Mother Earth is our house, and the trees are our structure. The water is our blood.” With a long history of resisting Dutch colonists, the community have shown the same tenacity against mining corporations. Most notably, the women of Kendeng are famous for protesting by cementing their feet together and sitting outside government offices in Jakarta for days on end. Direct action like this is one of the many ways that communities around the world resist extractive industries.

Standing in solidarity (Photograph courtesy of TSF)

Standing in solidarity (Photograph by TSF)

Sukolilo Springs (photograph courtesy of Tom Takezoe)

Sukolilo Springs (photograph by Tom Takezoe)

New Alliances

Rejecting the extractivist model and false solutions, the delegates proposed an alternative – one which centres the needs and wellbeing of communities, workers and Mother Earth, and a transition led by people, not corporations. We left TSF with fond memories of our new friends, new alliances to undermine the companies that threaten our lands and seas, and newfound strength in our many voices.







Written by Thomas Takezoe, Yes To Life No To Mining