Los Proyectos de Muerte: A Political Ecology on Mining in Mexico

When:1 Mar 2018, 2pm - 3pm
Venue:Room 251, Robert Webster Building, UNSW, Kensington Campus
Who:Dr Silva Ontiveros, Postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Geography at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
Environmental Seminar - 1 March

Guest speaker Dr Letizia Silva Ontiveros of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México will discuss: 

Los Proyectos de Muerte: A Political Ecology on Mining in Mexico

Abstract: Since the incorporation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, foreign investments in resource extraction activities have increased exponentially in Mexico, both in terms of numbers of projects, their geographical reach and the physical size of each project. Most recently, in 2017, this has included the introduction of controversial unconventional gas mining initiatives in the north-east of Mexico in regions that are recognised for their biocultural wealth: high levels of biological diversity that are enmeshed with indigenous cultural heritage sites. Due to the scale of these post-NAFTA developments, they have been framed as “mega projects”, due to their spatial and temporal scale, the large amount of resources that they extract, and the displacement of populations that has occurred in their wake. The development of these projects, however, has not emerged without opposition, and they have been highly criticised by civil society organisations that have highlighted the range of procedural, distributional and recognition justice issues that are implicit in their design. As a part of these initiatives, these mega-projects have been dubbed as Los Proyectos de Muerte (Projects of Death), a term coined by environmental justice organisations to critique their environmental and social impacts. Death referring not only to the dire impacts on human health, but also to the consequences for the more-than-human: the detriment of a broader environment.

In this talk, Dr Silva Ontiveros provides an overview of the territorial expansion of these Proyectos de Muerte and how social movements and networks have responded to the changing resource extraction landscape. She will explore how the notion of ‘Proyectos de Muerte’ has become an all-encompassing term for a range of different mining opposition groups, including the defence of their resources (use of the land, water, air, vegetation), the environment (protection against contamination and deterioration), the control of territory (the fissure of the interrelations between nature and society), and defending their ways of life in their different meanings according to the cosmovision of each region. This includes lekil kuxkejal (the harmony of common life according to the Tzetal and Tzotil indigenous groups); lekilaltik (the common good according to the Tojolabal indigenous group); and buen vivir (the notion of ‘living well’ in mestizo towns). Dr Silva Ontiveros will discuss how these different ‘defence of life’ notions have permeated social movements against Proyectos de Muerte, shaping their organisation and actions.

Dr Silva Ontiveros will be presenting in Spanish, with an interpreter translating the content into English.

About the speaker: Dr Silva Ontiveros is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Institute of Geography at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Prior to this appointment, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at Department of Economic Production of Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana – Xochimilco. Her research has focused on the different dimensions of mining in Mexico and has included projects focused on industrial mining heritage, social and environmental impact of mega projects, and territorial conflicts across different urban-regional scales. Her current research at UNAM is focused on post-mining landscapes. She is also an active member of the “Mexican Network of Mining Affected People” (REMA - Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería).

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