In 2013, WITNESS co-convened a meeting of Video for Change activists from Mexico and Central America. During this meeting, participants from the Human Rights Center of the Mountain “Tlachinollan” presented a proposal to create collaborative videos to support efforts to return the land of the Juba Wajiín indigenous community in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Since then the community of Juba Wajiín made videos to be shown in judicial decision-making spaces and for public distribution. They also wanted to make videos that could be shared with other communities undergoing similar problems as an example of what action could be taken to protect their land as well.
On Wednesday May 18, 2016, the Juba Wajiín community announced a landmark victory against mining companies seeking to engage in subterranean gold extraction on their land. In 2011, the community, which is located in the mountains of Guerrero, was informed by the Tlachinollan center, that 80 percent of its territory had been awarded to two mining companies without the knowledge or consultation of the community.
Upon learning of the deal, the community of Juba Wajiín initiated a legal challenge seeking to cancel the land concession which had granted permits to the mining companies. Using an injunction, the community asked the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) to explore the constitutionality of the Mining Act, which does not mandate that communities be consulted before mining rights are distributed by the state. However, consultation is a right of indigenous peoples as established by Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations (of which Mexico is a member).
In October 2015, when demands of the Juba Wajiín were about to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, the two mining companies pursuing the land, Hochschild and Zalamera (Peruvian and Mexican respectively) simultaneously gave up their permits to the land previously granted by the government.
This video was made collaboratively following a Video for Change convening held in Mexico City in 2013.
The cancellation of these mining permits in the Juba Wajiín’s territory are a result of community organizing with help from the Human Rights Center of Tlachinollan Mountain and represent an unprecedented victory for an indigenous community in Mexico. This victory directly benefits at least eleven agrarian groups in six municipalities, which include around 240 indigenous communities.
Via Juba Wajiín and Tlachinollan at a recent news conference, “transnational corporations, the Mining Authority and the Economic Ministry sought to avoid analysis of the Mining Law before the Supreme Court as the law has been invoked in recent years to strip indigenous and agrarian communities throughout the country. Faced with the possibility that there is visible evidence that the Mining Law violates the constitution and international treaties, businesses and the federal government chose to move to cancel the titular concessions.”
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appeal filed by Juba Wajiín. Therefore, we join the Juba Wajiín and Tlachinollan in calling on the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation to acknowledge the merits of the case and determine the constitutionality of the Mining Law. The court has a historic opportunity to establish broad criteria for the protection of collective rights of indigenous peoples against large-scale mining projects without outside consultation or interference.