Current Projects in Human Rights in the Extractive Industries
In 2016, the Human Rights Institute and the Human Rights Clinic are undertaking a range of new projects to assess the human rights impacts of extractives projects in the Global South, and to promote accountability for alleged violations. Projects include:
In 2014, the Human Rights Clinic launched a new effort to support communities and social organizations mobilizing against a proposed gold mining project known as Conga in Cajamarca, Peru. Community members fear that the project, if allowed to go forward, will result in negative impacts to the environment and human health stemming primarily from harm to water quality and access. Local communities say that the mere existence of the project has already adversely impacted human rights, calling attention to violence against protesters by security forces acting on behalf of the company, and harassment and efforts to forcibly displace those living near the mine concession area. The Clinic is supporting the affected communities through an exploration of the responsibility of the different companies and institutions involved in the project (including a U.S. mining company and the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank) in light of the application of international legal norms and standards. In March 2015, the Clinic traveled to Lima and Cajamarca to meet with organizations, activists, and affected communities to discuss and advance legal strategies seeking to stop the project. The Clinic also supported a legal action in a U.S. federal court seeking discovery of information held by the U.S. company regarding an incident of violent repression of protest activity at the mine site in November 2011 that left many protesters injured.
Read more: Human Rights Clinic Supports Peruvian Organizations’ Efforts to Prevent Mining Abuses, Human Rights Clinic Travels to Peru to Support Communities Defending their Environment from Mining Risks; Human Rights Clinic assists in win for transparency & justice regarding violent repression of protests at site of proposed mine in Peru
Papua New Guinea
HRI and the Human Rights Clinic support communities dealing with the environmental and social consequences of the Porgera Gold Mine, a mine owned by a Canadian company, in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. The thousands of indigenous people living in villages surrounding the mine fear that mine operations have polluted their rivers and streams, contaminated rainwater, caused erosion and landslides, and contributed to poor air quality and low crop yield – but have had little access to independent assessments of these environmental concerns. Residents requested the Clinic to carry out independent research of any environmental and health impacts. After extensive research and preparation – including on rights-based mixed-methods research, the rights to water and health, international and domestic environmental law, and interviewing technique – in December 2014-January 2015, the Clinic traveled to the region along with environmental scientists from the Earth Institute of Columbia University, as well as a film-maker. The team conducted an interdisciplinary rights-based study, blending physical science and human rights methodology, to assess the mine’s environmental and human rights impacts. Sarah Knuckey also traveled to the region for a month in July 2015 to carry out additional research. The results of the study will be published and shared with the communities in early 2016.
Separately, the Clinic also works on issues related to physical abuse by the mine’s security guards. For years, residents have alleged that mine security guards engaged in beatings and sexual assault, including gang rapes, of local residents. After earlier work investigating these violations, the Human Rights Institute and the Human Rights Clinic have been analyzing the mining company’s recent efforts to compensate sexual assault victims through the creation of a non-judicial remedy mechanism. A major report and an academic article will be published in 2015 as part of a multi-pronged analysis of corporate non-judicial grievance mechanisms for human rights abuses. In October 2014, the Institute and Clinic also hosted with EarthRights International a workshop of international experts to discuss community-led grievance mechanisms, as an alternative model for remedying these types of abuses.
Read more: Human Rights Clinic Teams with Scientists to Investigate Conditions at Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea