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Today, indigenous cultures have a wide variety of interactions with minerals production and use as individual artisanal miners, members of mining cooperatives, employees of large multinational mining companies, or otherwise. They may share through one or another means in the revenues generated by mineral production on their lands. In other cases, indigenous communities have not benefited from mineral development, which has led to a large-scale influx of population into their territories, erosion of traditional livelihoods, cultural conflict, loss of territory, environmental damage, forced displacement, violence, and other problems.

Our sustainable mining plan

Worldwide, the picture is quite complex and very mixed. In some cases, indigenous communities see minerals activities as a threat to culture, environmental quality, livelihoods, or self-determination.

In other places, indigenous people see mining as an integrated part of their economic development. Many of the big questions revolve around the use of customary lands for mining. Mining often takes place in circumstances where the rights of indigenous groups to the land on which they live and work are not recognized by the state -- where central governments appropriate most or all of the economic benefits and make most or all of the decisions.

Even in those areas where land rights are recognized, the implications of mining can be far-reaching. In many, if not most, traditional societies, land is inalienable, communal, and of great spiritual and cultural importance. For most indigenous societies, land is the basis of local economies, providing subsistence produce for consumption and exchange in customary practice.

Mining, Society, and a Sustainable World

Mining may mean reduced areas for gardening, leading to out-migration and the breakdown of traditional family structures centered on sharing land and working on it together. Equally, compensation and royalty payments where machanisms exist for these have brought their own dilemmas because the distribution and amounts of cash payment are often the subject of protracted dispute. Where indigenous groups are given a role in decision-making, questions arise around the forms of participation they see as appropriate.

Another of the major questions in many parts of the world is the lack of trust be tween indigenous groups and mining companies which arises from the unenviable history of past meeting. Additionally, grassroots awareness of the vulnerability of minerals projects to delays forced by community protest, the potency of international media attention, and the penalties for corporate liability have now focused stakeholder attentions on the local dimensions of minerals development.

MMSD is attempting to engage with a broad cross-spectrum of stakeholder constituencies to provide a platform for progress on some of these crucial issues, and the process clearly lacks real value if indigenous perspectives are not sought and integrated into the project outcomes. Yet there are inherent difficulties and challenges in an endeavor of this nature. First, the sheer diversity of indigenous peoples and organizations with an interest in mining-related issues is enormous and there is no effective way in which the project can consult with every indigenous constituency in the world in a meaningful way.

What MMSD instead seeks to do is to scope a wide cross-spectrum of the perspectives around key issues with knowledgeable people from a diverse set of organizations and communities. And we are always open to the ideas of any individual or group who wants to suggest more effective ways to proceed. We are seeking individuals to participate in different aspects of the project on the basis of their knowledge in specific areas and experience as members of affected communities.

The regional level processes afford opportunities for indigenous groups to contribute to and guide the project's work. The beginning meetings in a series of regional talks have been held in different parts of the world throughout December. These meetings are the first stage in defining a research and stakeholder engagement agenda for the regional elements of the project.

World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Regional meetings in Canada, the Philippines, and South Africa have all been attended by indigenous peoples who, although attending as individuals, bring important and diverse views to the table. As the regional processes move forward, larger multi-stakeholder meetings will be convened by the regional partner organizations; part of the regional terms of reference are actively to seek stakeholder interaction with indigenous groups.

In this context, engagement does not mean consent for the project or its approaches, as many indigenous groups neither condone nor welcome mining on their lands.

Nevertheless, the project is making the best of efforts to provide a platform for the airing of these more critical voices. Because it is early in the MMSD research process, it is difficult at this stage to assess exactly what the nature of indigenous peoples' commentary and interaction with the project will be. Advanced Search.

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