Mining often sets up a straight competition with small-scale farming for control of land.

“Si a la vida, no a la mina” (Yes come life, no to the mine) is a rallying cry heard across many components of countryside Latin America these days. Mining, as well as oil and gas extraction, has exploded across the region in the critical decade, moved by high prices for gold and also industrial metals like copper that space needed generally to feed the Chinese economy. This eight has likewise been proficient in Africa and also Asia, where federal governments have seek to exploit their source endowments to drive development. Vulnerable states favor Sudan, Burma and Afghanistan have likewise begun to develop their mining sectors. The widening mining ar has contributed to solid economic expansion in some countries but has also generated social disputes in rural areas that should be urgently addressed.

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Area near Tintaya Copper Mine (Espinar), Cusco, Peru. Photo: kris Hufstader / Oxfam America

The heart of the issue is the mining activity has come into straight competition with another predominant method of economic development in countryside areas: small-scale agriculture. Tensions over manage of land and, many importantly, water have led to ar protests and also violent conflict. Reconciling these 2 important advance drivers has become a vital governance issue, specifically in the most fragile states whereby the conflicts between the 2 can frequently be seen many starkly.

In theory, both mining and agriculture can administer pathways the end of poverty. The World Bank and development-focused academic researchers have emphasized the an important role of farming in fostering rural development. (Three-quarters that the world’s poor live in landscape areas.) Agriculture provides direct benefits come those who communicate in it. Farmers obtain payments for plants they produce, i beg your pardon they deserve to then usage to invest in future production and to pay for your families’ straightforward needs. Mining can also play a role in fostering development, although more indirectly, by generating revenues for governments. Governments deserve to use taxes and also royalties paid by mining suppliers for facilities investments and also other productive purposes. Mining companies additionally pay for community advancement programs, develop schools and roads, and also make other investments.

Unfortunately, the compatibility of these two advancement paths, which tend to take place in the same rural areas, is at best questionable. Mining generates far-reaching “externalities,” e.g. Water pollution, that can have a direct affect on agricultural production. These an unfavorable impacts deserve to be permanent and also render previously fertile agricultural land unusable. Mining likewise requires big amounts of land that can otherwise be used for farming production. This sets increase a straight competition through small-scale agriculture for control and use that land. In some countries such as Ghana, farmers displaced by mining tasks turn come small-scale mining together a instead of livelihood. This can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and conflict in which these farmers-turned-miners are forcibly evicted and beaten by police because that coming top top land asserted by massive mining projects.

Mining carriers argue the mining and farming are no necessarily incompatible. However there are few examples of whereby this has actually been the case, specifically in emerging countries, wherein oversight the the mining industry is often an extremely weak. Finding ways to reconcile these 2 economic activities is urgently needed to alleviate conflicts and ensure that mining’s benefits add to long-term sustainable breakthrough in landscape economies.

Communities relocated to make means for yellow mines in Ghana struggle with loss of farming land, unemployment, and environmental damage. Photo: Neil Brander / Oxfam America

Governments and companies need to take certain steps now to resolve this situation. First, the environmental affect assessment procedure for mining projects needs to be considerably strengthened and also made more independent. At present, governments rely ~ above information listed by companies, i m sorry is most often not the evaluation by an independent third-party. Companies thus have an impetus to downplay potential results of their operations on land and water in farming areas. In countries such as Peru, local farming communities’ lack of to trust in these environmental reviews contributes to anxieties around the effects of mining, which in turn contributes to conflict. Additionally, mining is progressively done in “clusters,” meaning several mines operate in the same geographic area in order come take advantage of mutual infrastructure and also processing facilities. The cumulative results on land and also water of number of mines operating in the very same area have actually not been extensively examined. The use of what are known as “strategic” environmental affect assessments, i m sorry take into account these cumulative impacts, would certainly be an important step to increasing communities’ confidence.

Improved to plan on just how land will certainly be supplied is another critical step that federal governments should take. Mining concessions are regularly awarded without consideration for impacts on farming production. Later this year Oxfam America will publish research that reflects graphically just how mining and oil concessions have expanded significantly in recent years in agriculturally productive locations of Peru and also Ghana. Zoning soil for specific uses, e.g. Mining or agriculture, would help reduce conflict by establishing clear rules for how land will certainly be used. Greater dialogue in between the mining and agricultural sectors would be helpful. In Peru recently, the mining and farming ministries have actually signed a cooperation agreement. This is possibly a positive, although overdue, step.

Reconciling mining with farming in emerging countries, an especially in the most fragile states, won’t be easy. It may at some point require the admission that the two just are incompatible over the irreversible in details areas. What is clear is the these discussions are urgently needed now so that conflict and also violence produced by the junxtap location of these 2 sectors diminishes and also that nations can benefit from both their above-and below-the-ground resources.

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This article originally showed up on the blog of the united state Institute of Peace’s International Network because that Economics and Conflict.