As "ordinary" citizens, we can feel pretty cut off from the boardrooms, private meetings, and government departments where decisions are made. We can also feel shut out by the fancy, technical language of so called experts. Irresponsible mining developments can have devastating effects on ecologies and local communities. But what can we do about it?
The answer is, a lot. In small and large ways, citizens and community groups can and do make a huge difference in decisions about whether, where, and how proposed mines go in.
Picture yourself on the peak of Windy Craggy (that's it in the photo), gazing out at thousands of hectares of rugged, beautiful terrain. Far below, the waters of the Tatshenshini rush and course, while eagles circle in the distance. A mine proposed for this site - requiring massive tailings dumps and holding facilities and located in an earthquake zone - would have posed a serious and permanent threat to the ecological integrity of the Tatshenshini River and its surroundings. Instead, this vast wilderness domain was protected in a park--thanks to the dedication and action of people like you.
Or else imagine you're fishing the Bulkley River near Houston, BC--downstream from what was Placer Dome's Equity Silver Mine. The fact that acid mine drainage at that site is contained is due in large part to the consistent advocacy and work of a handful of local citizens.
Working in different parts of the world, environmental mining activists have developed a common set of effective approaches. The steps you need to take will vary, of course, depending on what particular issue you're looking at. However, the following checklist is a good place to begin planning an action campaign.
- Research. Learn everything you can about the company, the mine site, current proposals, and the local environment. Read up on regulations, find out who's responsible in the company and in government.
- Document. Take photos or video footage, get copies of permits, produce position papers or reports, get it in writing. Make maps of the locality, identifying existing land values and other development pressures.
- Network. Get an existing organization active on the issue, or put together a new network. Get spokespeople who know their stuff. Talk to mine union locals, First Nations, environmental groups, fishery or wildlife organizations. And let us at EMCBC know what's up!
- Strategize. Talk out your options, develop scenarios, anticipate possible responses, lay out your positions and your bottom line. Decide where and when to bend, and where to stand firm. A key question here is whether you want to oppose the mine altogether or achieve changes to improve its design.
- Educate. Publish fact sheets, hold slide shows or information sessions. Publish your maps, contribute articles to newsletters.
- Advocate. Attend meetings, speak up, talk and write to mine managers and government officials. Make your position heard on committees. Speak knowledgeably to the issues.
- Publicize. Hold press briefings, announce reports, respond to developments.
- Monitor. The best plan is only worthwhile if it is actually carried out. Check up, ground truth. Make sure that agreements are lived up to, and take action if they are not.
- Celebrate. Don't be all doom and gloom. Acknowledge positive changes. Thank the people in your community doing good work. Celebrate successes, small and large.
Starting to take action on mining issues can be as simple as writing a letter, visiting and examining a mine site, or going to a meeting.