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Panamanians, Kofani and Tohono O’odham Nation defending the environment

Living between the foothills of the Andes and the Amazon rainforest, the indigenous Kofani (A’i Cofán) people fight to protect their lands from gold miners. Kofani seek help in the courts and justice armed with spears, drones and GPS navigation. The gold-fever invaders destroy their sacred Aguarico river, ravage forests and poison ecosystems with mercury, which combines with gold to form an amalgam. The gold is then extracted by evaporating the mercury. According to a report by the Organization of American States, illegal gold mining and exports have increased significantly in Ecuador in recent years.

The indigenous people of Panama are protesting against the mining industry, blocking the country’s main roads. Demonstrators are demanding that the Panamanian government invalidate the agreement that allows Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals Ltd. to continue operating an open-pit copper mine in a biodiversity-rich jungle for up to another 40 years. Canadian mining companies are often criticised in the region for environmental damage and lack of responsibility for their actions.

Due to protests by the indigenous Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona, work on the SunZia Wind and Transmission project – transmitting green energy to the Western United States – was suspended. Representatives of the tribe and other indigenous peoples in the area say the development violates areas of significant cultural and historical significance. Ultimately, the SunZia project will be approximately 885 km long and transmit electricity from New Mexico wind farms towards California.

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