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Land and Minerals/Mining

Minerals and mining cases are important. Use of land for mining or other extractive industry has the potential to damage neighbouring land or affect enjoyment of it  through pollution. The economic benefits  from mining are however often  not shared with the local community but go exclusively to outside investors.


Licences and Permits

Generally the company requires a licence to extract minerals, and this sometimes gives the community an opportunity to challenge the terms of the licence, for example concerning the payments due to the local community, or to challenge the grant or renewal of an extractives licence.



Using Environmental Protection Regulations

Mining and especially “Open-pit” mining removes local vegetation. Many mining operations use harmful chemicals like cyanide.  This harms humans, fish and animals.  Water can be adversely affected. This damage may justify legal action to stop the land being used in this way.

Also it may be possible to halt use of land for mining until there has been consultation with the local community or an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) carried out


Particular Groups of Peoples and Communities

Indigenous peoples and forest peoples are often particularly affected and have specific rights. See UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Poeples report Extractive industries operating within or near indigenous land.

Prior consent, and Free prior informed consent is an important norm, though only some laws respect it. Peru has a prior consultation law.

Share in the profits: communities often consider that the royalty from the resource extraction is insufficient, or insufficiently shared with them.


Ways of challenging mining

Communities sometimes go to court to require information about the extractive operations, filing complaints of lack of information on the royalty or how it is invested locally.

Communities might also challenge the compensation and management of environmental liabilities, eg to ensure proper closure of abandoned mines, ecological restoration etc.

See for example a study in Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Panama: Impact of the Extractive Industry on the Collective Land and Forest Rights of People and Communities,

Where the company is a foreign company, or has foreign investment, it may be possible to bring a case or seek redress under the law that applies to the foreign company, or under the administrative schemes of the lenders, like the World Bank’s Compliance Ombudsman’s Office. See section [11] below, Practical Tips for handling legal actions about land.

For a series of case studies on mining disputes in Latin America, see the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America (215 conflicts in 19 Latin American countries in 2014 ), (in Spanish).  Or for a country specific focus on Chile, on a series of court cases where communities successfully challenged mining

For a particularly serious case, where mining company BHP Billiton’s river Doce tailings dam in Brazil broke killing 17, see


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