Gaia was joined by international groups and indigenous leaders at WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), in calling for wilderness and conservation areas to be respected as No Go Areas, and for increased recognition and protection for Sacred Natural Sites. We invite you to comment and support these Resolutions online.

WILD10, which took place in Salamanca, Spain, 4th-11th October, offered a platform for raising the alert on how the context of extractive industries, especially mining, has changed dramatically this last decade. As documented in Gaia’s report “Opening Pandora’s Box“, the rising prices of metals, minerals, oil and gas have led to land grabbing, the violation of community rights, devastation of fragile ecosystems, and water scarcity – not to mention health issues. Global investment in extractive industries has rocketed in the last few years. So too has the rush for ‘extreme energy’, such as fracking, mountain top removal, deep-water drilling. The drivers are consumption and the race to maximise profits and growth, resulting in runaway consumption habits – as highlighted in Gaia’s report “Short Circuit” and the feature of our new animation video, later this month.

The message we took to WILD10 was that “enough is enough” – wilderness and conservation areas, whether designated for ecological reasons, safeguarded by indigenous communities or protected for their cultural and spiritual values, must be respected as No Go Areas. We were delighted to be joined by The WILD Foundation and ICCA-Consortium (Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Community Conserved Areas and Territories) in hosting discussions with conservation groups, indigenous leaders and others. Two important Resolutions (Nos. 11 and 12) are now in process – they are available for public comment on the WILD10 website.

At the opening Plenary session for WILD10, Liz Hosken (Director, Gaia Foundation), Nigel Crawhall (TILCEPA Co-Chair), plus a video message from Nnimmo Bassey (Home of Mother Earth Foundation) in Nigeria, fed the audience some of the facts and figures on this surge in extractive industries. During the 3-day WILD10 Global Forum, as part of the Indigenous and Community Lands and Seas Forum led by Shay Sloan, we invited panellists from mining-affected indigenous groups and allies to share their experiences and to strategise for a way forward – to halt the violation to the integrity of protected areas, world heritage sites, indigenous territories and sacred natural sites.

We invite you to view, comment and support Resolutions no.11 (Sacred Natural Sites) and no.12 (Protected Areas and Mining).

More Information: (feedback from WILD10 discussions, from Vanessa Reid, ICCA-Consortium and Nigel Carwhall, TILCEPA Co-Chair)

Liz Hosken (Director, Gaia Foundation) emphasised that the goal posts have all shifted. Mining is invading indigenous territories and World Heritage Sites around the globe at an alarming speed. It seems to particularly target sacred natural sites, which are considered powerful by indigenous and local peoples, and many different religions. These sites are culturally important but they also usually serve critically important ecosystem functions – protecting underground water, watershed systems, forest resources or mountain ecosystems.

Aboubacar Albachir, the Vice-Sultan of Aïr and member of Association Tunfa, from Niger, and Joseph Itongwa, Coordinator of PIDP-Kivu from Goma, DR Congo represented the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC). They described how uranium mining and petrol extraction in or near World Heritage Sites are violating international treaty obligation and threatening the lives of indigenous peoples.

Nils Olof, a young Sami reindeer herder from Sweden, explained how “Sami people have lost land to hydro-electric dams, logging and now we face the threat of mining. It will become impossible to keep herding the reindeers the way we have always done”. Giovanni Reyes, an indigenous Ygolote member from the Philippines, and NGO KASAPI Director, exposed how assassinations of anti-mining activists and their families are now common place; “thirty-four (reported) people have been killed in the Philippines for speaking out against mining and currently over 800 mining applications are underway”.

Wayne Bergman, an Aboriginal activist from the Kimberleys in Western Australia, spoke of his community’s struggle to control mining. “Our whole territory is sacred and mining violates everything my people believe in.”

The Resolutions:

Gaia was joined by IPACC in drafting a Resolution (No.12) that calls for “Building a Global Alliance to assert ‘No-Go Areas’ for Mining and other Extractive Industries and destructive activities threatening World Heritage Sites, and Protected Areas, including Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCAs) and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories”. It urges governments to adopt, implement and enforce appropriate laws, policies and programmes – with the full and effective participation of communities and organizations concerned – for the protection of World Heritage Sites, Protected Areas, including ICCAs and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, as ‘No-Go Areas’ for any kind of destructive industrial activity, especially mining and other extractive and destructive industries.

The IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), along with two inter-commission bodies, CSVPA and TILCEPA, agreed to propose and second the Resolution. As Nigel Crawhall (TILCEPA Co-Chair) commented: “The Resolution is one asserting an ethical principle. It is not binding, but it is a strong warning to the extractive industries and States that human patience with mining is running out.”

Gaia proposed a second Resolution (No.11) that calls for “Recognising Networks of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and the Customary Governance Systems of their Custodian Communities as a Distinct Category of Protected Area”. This was supported by IPACC, TILCEPA, Sacred Natural Sites Initiative and ABN. It urges recognition of Indigenous Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as a distinct category of Protected Area, and for national governments to adopt and enforce appropriate laws, policies and programmes for the recognition of Indigenous Sacred Natural Sites and Territories and their customary governance systems.

More about WILD10:

WILD10 was the most recent of an international, public conservation project. Held every 2-3 years, the World Wilderness Congress provides a forum for conservation groups, governments, community representatives, scientists, business, artists and more. Gaia has been linked with the WILD Congresses for many years, most notably at WILD7, held in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where we hosted various events and brought together a range of voices on Earth Jurisprudence and wilderness experience.