Learning from the frontlines

Outside Resisting Rio Tinto

Outside Resisting Rio Tinto

Every April we host activists and community representatives from around the world, who have come to London to challenge Rio Tinto over various aspects of its global operations; land-grabbing, strike-breaking, displacement of communities. It is often grim and harrowing stuff, particularly at the Rio Tinto AGM, when the life-and-death struggles of those who have come to take the company to task, are too often casually dismissed or fobbed off by the board and executives.

But in spite of all the devastating circumstances that bring communities to London each April, there is a strength that emerges from being able to connect, share stories and develop collective strategies for how we can better support one another and hold the company to account. When we get to come together, face to face, we are strengthened by the experience. This is something we hear year on year, and is why we decided to formalise the collective aspects of the Rio Tinto AGM this year, by hosting a day school at SOAS: Resisting Rio Tinto: Learning from the frontlines.

We were lucky enough to have visitors this year from Mongolia, Madagascar, India and the US, as well as a co-author of the new Re:Common/World Rainforest Movement report on the sham of biodiversity offsetting at Rio Tinto’s QMM site in Madagascar. Again, the stories were harrowing; Sreedhar’s descriptions of tiger sanctuaries forcing villagers out, as diamond mines were brought in, in their place; Sukhgerel’s accounts of Mongolian nomadic herders being pushed out of their traditional territories; Roger telling us about Rio Tinto’s attempts to privatise sacred Indigenous Apache lands for a copper mine, while leaving the proposed mine’s tailings waste pile as a public liability for the state and community to suffer the costs and consequences of. And yet, even through all this, possibilities emerged for collective international solidarity actions.

From collective complaints against the company’s global business practices, lodged through a range of intergovernmental bodies, to plans for community level grant funds to support direct learning and exchange of ideas between those fighting the company in different locations, coming together opened up new possibilities for more effective resistance.

Massive thanks to all of you who came along and made the event what it was! The battles ahead are inevitably uphill ones, but when we get to spend a bit of time together, as we did last week, some of the challenges start to seem a little bit more manageable…

Presentations, links and resources from the day:

  • REPORT: Re:Common / World Rainforest Movement report on Rio Tinto’s biodiversity offsetting project in Madagascar
  • VIDEO: Jutta Kill, World Rainforest Movement on the ‘double land-grab’ of biodiversity offsetting
  • VIDEO: Sreedhar Ramamurthi on diamond mining, tiger sanctuaries and community displacement around Rio Tinto’s operations in India

…Slides and further links to be added.

Photos above ©ingridguyon2016

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