Preventing Exploitation of Your Land By Others

Land rights include the right to exclude others from coming onto or using your land.

Disputes about land often involve questions as to “what is inappropriate use of land?”.

Common causes of disputes include activities like:

  • deforestation and logging
  • ranching
  • mining and other extractive industries
  • dam construction
  • growing fuel crops, palm oil, soya, or other crops on an industrial scale
  • building settlements for others or constructing roads to facilitate any of the above activities
  • Transformation of mixed local land use system to monoculture
  • Access to land for any of the above purposes


Minerals and mining cases are important. Use of land for mining or other extractive industries has the potential to damage your land or affect your enjoyment of it through pollution.

The economic benefits  from mining are often not shared with the local community but go exclusively to outside investors.

A. Licenses and Permits

Generally the company requires a licence to extract minerals. This licence sometimes gives the community an opportunity to challenge the terms of the licence.

  • For example, the license may give the community a right to receive payments from the mining company which you can enforce if the payment aren’t made, or
  • The License might give you the right to challenge the grant or renewal of an extractives licence.

B. Using Environmental Protection Regulations

Mining and especially “Open-pit” mining removes harms the local environment.

  • To make space for the mines, land has to be cleared of trees and natural habitats of animals.
  • Many mining operations also use harmful chemicals in their operations like cyanide.  These chemicals harm 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.


Special Protections for Groups of Peoples and Communities

Indigenous peoples and forest peoples are often particularly affected and have specific rights.

Key Resource

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has an informative report on the human rights issues regarding 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.

Key Resource

For examples of case studies from Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Panama, see the Rights and Resources Initiative’s Report on the Impact of the Extractive Industry on the Collective Land and Forest Rights of People and Communities


Ways of Challenging Mining and Extractive Operations

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.

  • For example, legal action could be used to ensure proper closure of abandoned mines and ecological restoration.

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.

  • For more information on how to take a case against a company in a foreign court, see our “Business and Human Rights” guide.


Case Studies

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 ).

For a country specific focus on Chile, see IPS News for information about a series of court cases where communities successfully challenged mining projects.


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