Dear Friends and Colleagues

Mining Destroying Conditions for Healthy and Productive Agriculture

The Gaia Foundation has released a new report entitled “UnderMining Agriculture: How the Extractives Industries Threaten Our Food Systems” which puts the spotlight on the hidden costs of mining on the conditions essential for healthy and productive agriculture. It highlights how adverse effects have already destroyed much of the world’s “conditions for life” i.e. its food, water, land, air and climate systems far beyond mining site locations and durations of operations.

The report also explains how the promises of job creation and economic growth have proven to be exaggerated, short-lived, and beneficial for only a few. It presents case studies which show that land and water grabbing and pollution (including acidification) are predominant traits of mining which cause irreparable harm to rural food production, livelihoods, and human, livestock and ecosystem health, affecting thousands of people.

Gaia believes that the minerals and metals already extracted are sufficient for the world’s needs if they are used responsibly. It calls for a re-evaluation of national priorities and for governments and civil society to take urgent action to protect the conditions for life from the mining industry for the sake of current and future generations.

The Press Release on the report and the Summary of the report are reproduced below.

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Item 1

Press Release  - Immediate Release

Under-Mining Agriculture: Global Food and Public Health Threatened by the Extractives Sector

The world’s food production and millions of small farmers and communities are under increasing threat from the rapid expansion of mining, says a new report released today.

UnderMining Agriculture: How the Extractive Industries Threaten our Food Systems, produced by The Gaia Foundation and global allies, exposes the hidden costs of mining on food, water, land, air and climate, showing how each is increasingly affected by toxins as the global land and water grab intensifies.

Case studies from around the world illustrate how mining is destroying the conditions essential for healthy and productive agriculture as communities testify to experiencing livestock deaths, soil pollution, acidic water supplies, desertification of agricultural lands, and being forcibly displaced. Promises of job creation and economic growth have been shown to be exaggerated, short-lived and only benefiting the few, whilst the lasting impact on the communities and ecosystems they depend upon are yet to be fully analysed and exposed.

“In recent years The Gaia Foundation and our partners have been forced to turn our attention to mining because the extractives industries are encroaching on the land and livelihoods of most of the communities with whom we work. In our experience, rather than contributing to “national interests”, the rapid and chaotic increase in extraction is now literally under-mining the fundamental needs of life:  Healthy ecosystems, water systems and food systems. Protecting the conditions for life is a priority.” Said Liz Hosken, Founding Director of The Gaia Foundation.

The UnderMining Agriculture report shows how at every stage of mining - from prospecting and operations right through to closure – impacts are being felt.  Furthermore, the extraction of minerals, metals or fossil fuels, pollutes areas far wider than the actual mining site, continuing years after its closure.

Jamie Kneen from Mining Watch Canada commented: "UnderMining Agriculture is a clear call to action to bring the extractive industries under control, showing how they directly and indirectly threaten food security and food sovereignty, and even the survival of entire ecosystems. The conflict is not a mystery for communities from the Amazon to the Arctic struggling for their own futures, but this important report puts the pieces together for campaigners and the general public and makes it clear that better rules or practices are not enough; the entire extractivist economic model has to be turned around.”

Nnimmo Bassey, former Head of Friends of the Earth Africa, and now Director of HOMEF, commented: “This is a timely report and a critical message – What will people drink when their water is contaminated? How will people live when their air is polluted, their trees are gone, and their farmland is but a poisoned wasteland? As people around the world stand together to say Yes to Life, No to Mining, this report is an important wake up call for us all.”

Notes to Editors

For press enquiries

Please contact Rowan Phillimore on or +54 9 113 669 3981 (Argentina). Alternatively you can call Hannibal Rhoades in London on +44 207 428 0054.

The full report is available at

An infographic accompanying the report is available here:

A printed 4-page summary report featuring a large infographic pull out poster is available by contacting The Gaia Foundation on +44 207 428 0055 or emailing to request copies. Copies can be sent within the UK. Copies sent overseas will be asked for a donation to cover postage. High res versions are available. Images featured in the report are also available upon request.


Interviews are available with the reports lead authors at The Gaia Foundation and with contributing partners and those featured in global case studies.

For those in the UK, Mariana Gomez of Colombia, is currently in the UK. She has been part of a large scale resistance effort against gold mining in the town of Tolima. Her account is featured in an exchange of letters here, and in a case study featured in the report.

Many of those who feature in the report are travelling from Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and the UK to gather in Uganda from Monday 22nd September to discuss regional efforts to resist the extractives sector. Please contact Rowan to find our more or arrange interviews.

Behind the report

UnderMining Agriculture was produced by The Gaia Foundation, a UK based NGO with 30 years experience working with partners and communities around the world. More information at

Collaborating partners include CIKOD from Ghana, Mupo from South Africa, NAPE from Uganda, the African Biodiversity Network based in Kenya, and MELCA Ethiopia. Additional support in producing this report have come from MiningWatch Canada and HOMEF Nigeria.

Item 2

UnderMining Agriculture: How the Extractive Industries Threaten our Food Systems


UnderMining Agriculture looks at the real impact of mining - from prospecting and operations through to closure - on agriculture, food production, soil fertility, fresh water systems, the air that we breathe, and our already challenged climate. Without healthy ecosystems there can be no healthy food. Without water there can be no life.

The boom in mining and extractive industries continues to penetrate into the farthest reaches of our planet with devastating impacts. Mining is no longer taking place in isolated pockets of concentrated deposits. It has become so widespread that it threatens the integrity of ecosystems on our already fragile Earth.

This report highlights how the accumulative effects of the boom in mining are already evident. The extraction of minerals, metals and fossil fuels, pollutes areas far wider than the actual mining sites and for many years after the closure of operations. And yet, governments promote mining and provide incentives, arguing that it is in the “national interest“ and “contributes to economic growth”, with little evidence of either. There is also scant recognition of the true costs to the conditions of life for present and future generations of all species, including our own.

We believe that enough minerals and metals have been mined already. If we use them responsibly - changing the way we design, make and
sell products, closing the loop to ensure zero waste, and investing in a circular economy - we could supply enough energy for our needs, saving energy and using renewable energy, rather than subsidising the fossil fuel industry.

UnderMining Agriculture shows that national priorities need to be re-evaluated, and governments and citizens need to protect the conditions of life for food production now and for generations to come. Agricultural lands and the water systems they depend on should be recognised as “no-go areas” for mining and extraction and critical ecosystems should be protected - as a matter of urgency.

UnderMining Healthy Food for a Growing Population

Local, small-scale farmers grow 70% of the food we eat on less than one-third of the agricultural land available. These farmers grow and develop a diversity of nutritious crops, using less land and water than the large-scale industrial food system, while also building up healthy soils that absorb soil carbon (as opposed to contributing to climate change, as industrial agriculture has been shown to do). Despite efforts to make the public believe otherwise, it is these small farmers that feed the world. And yet it is precisely these farmers - their land, water, livelihoods and capacity to produce food - that are being undermined for the extraction of minerals, metals and fossil fuels.

Soil, Water & Air Pollution

All types of mining and extraction, whether for metals, minerals, coal, shale gas or tar sands, use excessive amounts of water at each stage, such as processing, dust suppression, slurry transportation and waste disposal. This depletes local water sources and has serious impacts on the ability of communities to produce food. The processing of bitumen from the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, for example, uses between 2 and 4.5 barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced. The water is drawn from rivers and deltas, affecting fish and wildlife populations – which in turn affects the livelihoods and food security of the First Nations peoples in the area.

Water use and pollution extends over a far greater area than the boundaries of the mine site, as do air and soil pollution. In Ghana, local farmers suffer crop losses of up to 40% due to gold mining - mostly from air pollution and nitrogen dioxide – on farmlands up to 20km away from the actual mining site. In addition, the phenomenon of “acid mine drainage” (AMD) can render water systems acidic and agricultural lands infertile for hundreds of years. Old gold mines in Johannesburg, South Africa, for example, threaten to pollute water supplies more than a century after the mines’ closure.

Land Grabbing & the Impact on Women

In many cases the land is grabbed from farming communities and converted into vast open cast pits (some of which are even visible from space). Huge heaps of waste rock are dumped on farmland, forests and grazing lands. These ecosystems and farmlands can never be restored to their original state; neither can the potential for communities to enjoy food sovereignty. So-called “compensation” packages add insult to injury, which is why land grabbing often escalates into violent conflict.

Women in agricultural communities are disproportionately affected by land grabbing. They are the main custodians of seed diversity and wild foods, whilst also being responsible for household nutrition. Mining activities deny them access to their land, water sources, food crops and wild biodiversity, and make women vulnerable and open to abuse from mining-associated activities such as road building, transportation and traders.

Rising Food Prices & Food Insecurity

Family nutrition is especially hard hit by mining in or near food growing areas. Loss of crops in South Africa due to coal mining, means that prices for maize meal (the staple diet for poorer communities) will increase. In Phulbari, the main rice-growing area for Bangladesh, coal mining is projected to affect the water supply, food production and livelihoods of 220,000 people. Olivier de Schutter, former UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food, has commented: “Nearly half the Bangladeshi population is food insecure, and nearly one quarter is severely food insecure. Local production should be strengthened, not sacrificed for industrial projects.”

Livelihoods Lost vs. Jobs Created

Mining may provide some jobs for a few decades, but its impacts can leave a landscape
and community livelihoods ruined for hundreds of years. The Rosia Montana gold mine in Romania claimed it would create 900 jobs, but in fact mining operations (relying on 40 tonnes of cyanide per day, 13 times the total amount currently used across Europe), would destroy 20,000 jobs in agriculture, tourism and other services due to the effects on landscape, cultural heritage and biodiversity. In South Africa’s Limpopo province, coal production would drain and divert water sources and 11,000 people would lose their livelihoods.