- World Bank Should Stop Mining Indigenous Lands

A new report from the Forest Peoples Programme and the TebTebba Foundation
calls on the World Bank to drop its support for oil, gas and mining. The
report 'Extracting Promises: Indigenous Peoples, Extractive Industries and
the World Bank' was compiled as a contribution to the World Bank's
Extractive Industries Review (EIR) (the full report and associated case
studies can all be found on:

The EIR process has been criticised by many indigenous peoples and
non-governmental organisations for being unduly controlled by the World
Bank. It remains to be seen whether contributions, such as this one, are
taken seriously by the review and, if so, whether the recommendations will
be heeded by the World Bank itself. The study builds on an extensive
literature review and legal analysis, seven specially commissioned case
studies carried out by indigenous peoples of their experiences of the
World Bank and extractive industries and a two-day workshop at which these
various contributions were presented and discussed.

The report notes that despite major advances in human rights law
recognising the rights of indigenous peoples, World Bank policies,
however, make little mention of human rights and the Bank continues to
insist that it is prohibited from addressing human rights by its Articles
of Agreement and it argues that it cannot require its borrowers or
clients to observe even those human rights agreements to which they are
party. The Bank's 'safeguard' policies on indigenous peoples and
involuntary resettlement seek only to mitigate the impacts of destructive
development schemes. The study shows how even these weak standards are
routinely ignored. A recent review by the World Bank itself reveals that
only more than one third of World Bank projects that impact indigenous
peoples have not applied the safeguard policy in any way at all. Even in
the projects that did apply the policy, only 14% had the required
'Indigenous Peoples Development Plan' and then only on paper.

The study shows how, in promoting national development through trade
liberalisation, structural adjustment and the promotion of foreign direct
investment, the World Bank has routinely advised countries to rewrite
national mining codes to facilitate large-scale mining by foreign
companies. These revised mining codes have been pushed through without the
participation of indigenous peoples and without taking into account the
interests and rights of indigenous peoples. Case studies from Colombia and
the Philippines show how the revised mining codes have intensified
pressure on indigenous lands and weakened or overridden the legal
protections previously enjoyed by indigenous peoples. In Colombia,
mineral, oil and gas reserves are exploited by unaccountable companies,
which enjoy legal impunity while regularly violating national laws and
using severely repressive measures to overcome local resistance. In
Ecuador, the World Bank has also promoted national minerals surveys, again
without taking the rights of indigenous peoples into account or assessing
the likely consequences of intensified minerals extraction.

The synthesis paper and case studies also document the way the World Bank
Group, through its various arms --the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association,
the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment
Guarantee Agency-- has directly supported mines, oil and gas ventures
without adequate assessment of the social and environmental consequences
and without taking heed of the lack of good governance and institutional
or regulatory capacity in project areas or countries. In the case of the
Chad-Cameroon Pipeline, the World Bank's Board voted to go ahead with the
project even when the forest-dwelling Bagyeli and supporting NGOs had
clearly demonstrated the risks and even though Board members admitted that
the Bank's safeguard policy on indigenous peoples has not been properly
applied. The IFC has even supported mining in war-torn countries like the
Democratic Republic of the Congo by companies with bad track records:
projects that have been condemned by the United Nations.

The impacts of Bank-facilitated mining ventures have been severe, not just
in terms of the direct social and environmental impacts of the mines or
wells themselves but also in terms of spills of poisonous chemicals such
as cyanide and mercury, ruptured oil pipes, breached tailings dams and
long term pollution through acid mine drainage. The case study from Papua
New Guinea reveals World Bank support for the use of the highly
controversial technique of submarine tailings disposal - 'out of sight is
out of mind' - without consideration for the long term implications for
marine ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on them. World Bank
employees, assessors and consultants, working with mining companies in the
name of the IFC and the World Bank's Business Partners for Development
have been party to, or have endorsed, processes that have engineered
consent or have co-opted communities into un-transparent and manipulated
decision-making. In some cases, as in Russia, the World Bank's involvement
in specific projects may have temporarily mitigated some of the worst
impacts of oil extraction but overall the World Bank's involvement in the
sector has intensified pressure on indigenous lands which remain

The study reveals that underlying these problems lies a flawed process of
decision-making within the World Bank in which the pressure to lend
overwhelms other objectives and objections. By prioritising its direct
clients and the interests of large-scale private sector enterprises, the
Bank is overriding its commitment to sustainable development. Corruption
is knowingly tolerated and governance failures routinely overlooked. Staff
who question loans being made under these circumstances are penalised.
Currently, in the name of 'efficiency', lower 'transaction costs' and
'country ownership', the Bank is systematically weakening its safeguard
policies, in order to 'panel proof' them against complaints by civil
society to the Inspection Panel.

Given the weakness of its safeguards, its institutionalised opposition to
invoking binding human rights standards and the way it routinely flouts
its own procedures, the study concludes that the World Bank should not be
involved in the Extractive Industries sector.

Moreover, the study recommends that the World Bank should radically revise
its social policies and its safeguard policy on indigenous peoples. It
should adopt a rights-based approach to development, recognise indigenous
peoples' rights to the ownership and control of their lands, territories
and natural resources, proscribe the forced relocation of indigenous
peoples, and uphold the principle that development projects should only go
ahead in areas owned or used by indigenous peoples subject to their free,
prior and informed consent. Such changes in approach should be applied to
the whole World Bank Group, should be complemented with new, legally
binding systems of accountability and should be accompanied by an
acceptance that the promotion of development through the private sector
requires, first of all, the promotion of good governance, real
accountability, effective regulatory mechanisms and strong institutional

By: Forest Peoples Programme, e-mail: info@fppwrm.gn.apc.org

For more news and stories on the affects of mining, visit the World Rainforest Movement website at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/deforestation/mining.html