How To Stop Mining Before It Starts: Carlos Zorrilla

How To Stop Mining Before It Starts: Carlos Zorrilla

Editor’s Note: Brave activist throughout the world risk their lives to protect the environment. We honor and respect their courage and realize that they are truly heroes. May they remain safe and in our thoughts to give them strength to carry on. Are you working with an organization that protects the environment?

by Liz Kimbrough on 4 April 2024 / Mongabay

Over nearly 30 years, Carlos Zorrilla and the organizations he co-founded helped stop six companies from developing open-pit copper mining operations in the Intag Valley in Ecuador. As a leader and public figure, Zorrilla is often for advice from communities facing similar struggles, so in 2009 he published a guide on how to protect one’s community from mining and other extractive operations. The 60-page guide shares wisdom and resources, including mines’ environmental and health risks, key early warning signs a company is moving in, and advice on mitigating damage if a mine does go ahead. The most important point, Zorrilla says in an interview with Mongabay, is to stop mining before it starts. Carlos Zorrilla is a leader in what locals say is the longest continuous resistance movement against mining in Latin America.

Zorrilla’s family fled from Cuba to the U.S. in 1962 when he was 11 years old. He moved to the Intag Valley in Ecuador in the 1970s, citing his love for the cloud forest ecosystem there. Soon after he arrived, so did the first of the mining companies.

Over the following decades, Zorrilla and the organizations he co-founded, including DECOIN (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag), helped block five transnational mining companies and a national company from developing operations in one of the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems.

In the process, Zorrilla and community members say they faced personal threats, smear campaigns, arrests and violence. But the movement also notched historic wins, including a constitutional case upholding the rights of nature against Chilean state-owned miner Codelco and the Ecuadorian national mining company in 2023.

Community members holding a sign that says, “let’s save Intag.” Communities in Intag Valley have been resisting mining for nearly 30 years. Photo by Carlos Zorrilla.

As a leader and public figure, Zorrilla is often sought out for advice by people facing similar threats. In response, he and two co-authors published Protecting Your Community From Mining and Other Extractive Operations: A Guide for Resistance in 2009 and an updated version in 2016. (The guide is also available in Spanish, French and Bahasa Indonesian).

“After getting rid of two mining companies, I was constantly being asked how the hell we did it,” Zorrilla tells Mongabay. “Rather than keep answering individuals, I wrote the manual. It’s much easier to just say, ‘Read the manual!’”

The 60-page guide shares experiences and resources, including the environmental and health risks of mines, strategies to prevent mining before it starts, key early warning signs a company is moving in, and advice on mitigating damage if a mine goes ahead.

Zorrilla says the most important point is to stop mining before it starts. To emphasize this point, he also published Elements for Protecting Your Community from Mining and Other Extractive Industries, which focuses on preventing mining from gaining a foothold.



“Stop the companies before they corrupt your communities and before they discover economically viable mineral deposits,” he says. “Once they start investing in exploratory activities it becomes progressively harder to get rid of them.”

Mining is a divisive issue within Indigenous and local communities. Some see economic benefits to address poverty, own their own mining projects, and highlight the need to negotiate better benefit-sharing agreements or collaborations with mining projects as a form of self-determination.

“But these memorandums only work with ethical mining companies and they are as rare as chicken teeth,” Zorrilla says.

Zorrilla’s opinions on mining are contentious. After the publication of the resistance guide, Ecuador’s president at the time, Rafael Correa, denounced it on public television as “destabilizing” and a foreign-led interference, in a move that Zorrilla says was “great publicity for the manual.”

Former Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, holds up Zorrilla’s resistance guide on public television in 2009, denouncing it as “destabilizing”.

As the world transitions away from fossil fuels, the demand for critical minerals to feed “clean” energy technologies such as electric cars is rising. Thus, mining is also increasing.

However, many experts say mining in Ecuador, especially in the Intag Valley, is just a bad idea. Aside from the earthquakes, rainfall, steep slopes and lack of infrastructure, it’s a country with a wealth of other options for development, such as ecotourism potential or sustainable agriculture.

“It’s really a poor choice to develop large-scale mining in such a rich country,” says William Sacher, professor and researcher at Simón Bolívar Andean University in Quito, who studies large-scale mining and its impacts. “If you actually do the math just in terms of cost and benefit, if you take into account the costs of large-scale mining, they outweigh the benefits.”

Zorrilla’s work with DECOIN resisting mining as well as restoring forests and watersheds has been internationally recognized with awards, including the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Prize in 2017. This year, Zorrilla won the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature’s award for defending nature’s rights.

It’s his connection to nature, he says, that keeps him motivated. “It is hard to put into words the connection I feel with the land and people, with the biological community I am part of,” he says. “What else could someone do that feels to be an integral part of a community? How could one not defend it against forces that would destroy it?”

In an interview with Mongabay’s Liz Kimbrough, Zorrilla discusses the guide and his experiences.

DRC copper Mine April 2017

An open pit copper mine in DRC. Image by Fairphone (CC BY S.A. 2.0)

Mongabay: What inspired you to write this guide?

Carlos Zorrilla: I think two main reasons motivated me to write the guide. The first and most important was that we had gone through a lot in confronting a Japanese and a Canadian mining company in the 1990s and the early 2000s and had to do so without any idea of how to go about it. I kept wishing there was some concrete information on the best ways for communities to confront the presence of these companies. Much as I looked around, I was unable to find anything.

I thought other communities could benefit from our experience in successfully standing up to two transnational mining corporations and blocking mining development in our area (as of early 2024, civil society in Intag has been able to block five transnational mining companies and a national one from opening a mine).

The second reason is much more practical. After getting rid of two mining companies, I was constantly being asked how the hell we did it. Rather than keep answering individuals, I wrote the manual. It’s much easier to just say, “Read the manual!”

Mongabay: You mention that preventing a project in the exploration phase is much easier than stopping it once mining has started. What are some early warning signs that communities should look out for?

Carlos Zorrilla: First, it helps to clarify why it’s so much more difficult to stop a mine once it has opened. A large mining company can incur hundreds of millions of dollars in exploration costs — costs that, in most cases, the country issuing the licenses could be held liable for if the mining company is unable to develop the mining site. This is a result of a country signing bilateral investment treaties with other countries to protect the investments of private companies.

So, in essence, the more a company invests in a project, the more expensive it is for a signatory country to pay off the mining company to go home.

The other reason is that the longer a mining company is a territory, the more likely they are to learn how to co-opt people and institutions, and they waste no time doing so. It’s similar to contracting cancer or other similar diseases: you’ve got to treat its soon as possible, otherwise it becomes deadly or ravages your body so badly that it becomes unable to defend itself.

Another reason it is imperative to stop a company in its initial stage or before is that the longer a mining company explores, the greater the possibility of finding an economically viable ore deposit. If they are successful, companies are much more likely to convince governments to allow all permits and look the other way in cases of illegal activities. It is also much easier for the company to find investors if they can show they have a viable mine to develop.

Mongabay: What are the first signs a company is interested in exploring territory?

Carlos Zorrilla: You may find strange people wandering around the community asking questions. Another is if you suddenly find that private individuals start to buy large tracts of land. Your community could be subjected to social and economic surveys carried out by a government agency under the guise of social or economic development or identifying health needs.

Keep in mind that it’s essential for the companies to find out as much as they can about the communities and the inhabitants they will be dealing with. This also goes for local government needs. For example, they may identify basic needs, such as the lack of basic health services, road and school infrastructure that needs repairing, lack of safe drinking water, etc. Once these needs are mapped out, they will offer the community and/or subnational governments financial help to address them. They often even offer to create so-called development groups or organizations, such as farming co-ops or women’s groups, and provide initial funding to address some of the needs. Companies may sign financial agreements with local or state governments to help cover the costs of supplying communities with basic necessities.

Needless to say, the funding always has strings attached to it, the least of which is that the subnational governments and community groups support the mining company’s presence and, later, the development of the mine.

The most important thing to remember is that the main objective of the companies is to create complete dependency on what they provide, whether it is jobs, road maintenance, drinking water, or basic health services. The inhabitants become so accustomed to having the services provided by the companies that they forget that they have lived without these things all their lives or that it is the state or national government’s responsibility to provide them. The dependency can become so instituted that the locals stop petitioning the local or national governments to provide the services and rely solely on the companies. This can also apply to subnational governments, especially when the national governments purposely reduce their funding as a strategy for the mining projects to gain support from the local populace.

At the same time, the companies are gathering basic information about the community, they are also identifying key players within the community. These are persons who have influence or could be groomed to hold a position of authority. They are the first ones co-opted. It could be someone successful in business or a well-respected community leader. They, in turn, will do a lot of the work for the company, such as convincing their neighbors that mining is the best way for the community and families to get out of poverty. Or it’s really silly not to accept the company’s support to build that road everyone always wanted. That propaganda is infinitely more effective when espoused by individuals you know and respect.

Community members in Intag protest mining in the forest. Image courtesy of Carlos Zorrilla.

Mongabay: What do you believe are some of the best ways to stop a mine before it starts?

Carlos Zorrilla: The best way to know what you’re up against is to find out all that you can about the company: things like who the owners are, the company’s history, main sources of funding, and where the company’s stocks are traded (if it is a publicly traded company).

Once you know all that you can about the company, your main objective is to stop it before it starts gathering information, hiring community members, or buying land — certainly before it holds meetings in your community.

As soon as you suspect a company is interested in your territory, hold public meetings or assemblies where, hopefully, most of the community’s adult population can participate in deciding whether to meet with the company. It can help to invite knowledgeable people to discuss some of the problems the community will have to face if they open the door to mining.

It is absolutely essential that no one accepts meetings with company officials or government employees promoting mining development unless it’s in a public setting with everyone from the community invited.

It is strongly recommended that the bylaws of the community include provisions for any approval of activities affecting the natural environment or social peace of the community be approved by two-thirds majority of the community members. It is dangerous to let the board members of the community (president, vice president, secretary, etc.) represent the community when it comes to allowing activities that could have such terrible and long-lasting social and environmental impacts.

Mongabay: The guide says mining companies use many tactics to divide communities and quell opposition. What’s the most difficult company tactic to counter that you’ve encountered? What should communities be aware of?

Carlos Zorrilla: The companies can use multiple tactics to neutralize the opposition. We’ve experienced just about all. Anywhere from making up criminal lawsuits to try to imprison effective opposition leaders and hiring paramilitaries to violently access the mining site, to death threats, outright buying community leaders, to terrible smear campaigns aimed at discrediting resistance leaders and/or the organizations that support the communities.

Then there are soft tactics. One of the hardest to counter is the easy money that the companies offer to the leaders and, eventually, community members when they start working for the company. This is especially effective in areas where making a living off the land is difficult.

Needless to say, this will lure people away from the fields and the normally hard work that is agriculture. Remember, the company offers steady paychecks, often accompanied by social security and health coverage. One of the things we must do is point out that these jobs will not last more than a few years or until the mine opens. Only qualified personnel are required once a mine opens, with few exceptions. But the company will never admit to it.

Communities have to know what the sacrifices are of accepting the jobs the companies offer. These include very often permanent, ongoing social conflicts; it could also lead to the relocation of whole communities to make room for the mine and its infrastructure, possibly contamination of water sources, desecrating sacred lands, and direct impacts on sustainable activities like ecotourism or agroecological farming.

It’s also been documented that there is more delinquency and violence surrounding mining projects, among many other negative impacts. The impacts are especially hard on women. Most mining jobs go to men, worsening economic inequality within households. Women often have to replace men’s work in the fields, adding even more stress to their daily lives. There also tends to be more health problems from STDs, plus more interfamily violence in mining sites.

So, when mining companies come offering jobs, communities have to consider all the impacts, not just look at the positive aspects.

That is why it is so important not to let the company get this far. Communities have to know that mining companies and government officials lie when it comes to convincing communities about mining. That is one of the most important messages. They have to lie because if they were to tell the truth about the social and environmental impacts of mining, not a single person in the community would support them.

In this light, it’s important to invite knowledgeable persons and community members from other communities that have suffered at the hands of mining companies to share with the communities what really goes on when mining companies roll into your community.

Liz Kimbrough is a staff writer for Mongabay and holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University, where she studied the microbiomes of trees. View more of her reporting here.

Photo by Diego Guzmán on Unsplash


Building Social-ecology Under Attacks in Rojava

Building Social-ecology Under Attacks in Rojava

Editor’s Note: The Kurdish people of Rojava have been building a grassroots democracy based around self-organizing communes, valuing relationships with nature and women’s liberation. To a large extent, these communes aim for what we believe the world should be: localized food systems, ecological living, and non-hierarchical societal structures. However, they face many challenges from neighboring states. We have covered this previously in many of our posts and podcasts. The following is a part of the report by Make Rojava Green Again. You can find the full report here.

For more on the communes of Rojava, please watch this video:

“We Will Defend This Life, We Will Resist on This Land”: Building Social-Ecology under Attacks in Rojava

By Make Rojava Green Again

The revolutionary process in Rojava, based on the pillars of grassroots democracy, women’s liberation and social-ecology, is progressing while at the same time is threaten by the continuous war carried on by the Turkish state. The Turkish army is not responsible only for killing civilians and political representatives but for a planned ecocide and attacks on basic civil infrastructure.

Rojava is one of the four parts in which Kurdistan has been divided with the creation of nation states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Rojava is the Syrian part.

The history of the Kurdistan, the ecological way of life of the people, the effects of the attacks, and the methods of resistance, are intrinsically related. In order to make them more understandable, we focused on the area of Koçerata. This region, its people and civil infrastructures in particular, were heavily targeted by Turkish airstrikes in winter 2023-2024.

Ecocide is a warfare of the Turkish fascism against the people. Long-term effects continue to harden the life of the people and will do so for the time to come. Still the people as well as the autonomous administration are focusing on finding creative and collective methods.

The creation of a new life on the basis of old heritages

Koçerata, the “Land of the Nomads”, is a plain land with some hills and, due to the Tigris’ river, very fertile. For hundreds of years Kurdish nomads have moved in the region, until the construction of nation states borders. Not being willing to give up on their ancestors’ way of life too fast, a lot of the people continued to move in the plain until around 1945, when Syrian state was built up. Syria wanted to create an urbanized, industrialized society. In this framework intensive monoculture practices were imposed. Koçerata in particular became of high interest because of the rich oil deposits, and until now represent one of the main pillars of energy suppliance for the region. One of the biggest power plants of North-East-Syria is also based here, in Siwedî. It was built in 1983 by a French company, and was the main gas and power station of whole North-East-Syria, serving between 4 and 5 million people, until the winter attacks.

Rûken Şêxo, spokesperson of the peoples council in the village Girê Sor describes the life of the people and the creation of social-ecology in the region: “The life of the Koçer [kurd. Half-nomads] is very simple and beautiful. We don’t need a lot from the outside. In every house you will find a small garden, where the families are growing vegetables, herbs and plants, for example tomatoes, onion, salad. Some will also raise cows, chicken and turkeys”. “We make things ourselves, especially yogurt, cheese and milk. From our childhood onward we learned to create everything by ourselves, from the things we have. This is also what we are going to teach to our children.”

Today the people of Koçerata are living mostly in villages, organizing their life as a part of the self-administration of North-East Syria. Still carrying on cultural heritage, the life is rather humble and self-contained. A life close to nature and communality has passed on through generations. People of Koçerata mostly rely on agriculture and also shepherding still plays a role.

While the communes are the foundation of the organizing of the everyday life on the village level, the peoples council are solving regional problems. The communes are the cells of the society and the councils are its body. Both of them elect two co-chairs, a woman and a man to apply decisions. At the same time, the Municipalities, which are responsible to organize infrastructural needs in the region, such as water and electricity supplies are under the control of the Peoples Council. The level of organization in the region is very strong, based on the long-time ties between the people and the freedom movement, as well as the lively communal culture. Connecting heritage and local culture with grassroots democracy and popular self-defense, the people of the region of Koçerata have set strong foundations for developing social-ecology.

Turkey’s war against Rojava: An attack on the development of social-ecology

Even though, in November 2022, heavy attacks were executed, targeting in particular the infrastructure for basic life needs (water and electricity), the most recent bombardments, from October 6th 2023 to January 18th 2024, mark the worst escalation since 2019. In this period the Turkish army carried on more than 650 strikes (with drones and fighting jet), hitting more than 250 places, many of them being hit several times. In this huge operation, 56 people have been killed (among which two children, 10-11 years old), while at least 75 people have been injured. Among them, workers at their work site or collecting cotton in fields. The airstrikes have mainly targeted essential infrastructure, 18 water stations, 17 electricity plant, sites for cooking gas, and oil, but also schools, hospitals, factories, industrial sites, agricultural and food production facilities, storage centers for oil, grain and construction materials and medical facilities, villages.

The purpose of destroying the basis of people’s life became even more explicit and clear. Beside the physical destruction, these attacks aim to harm society’s psychological status and destabilize the region, in order to stop the democratic process that is going on within the Autonomous Administration.

One of the most critical infrastructural targets have been the electricity plant of Siwedî. “Being the main gas and power station of whole North-East Syria, when there is problems within the plant it effects the whole region” told us Rûken Şexo, spokesperson of Girê Sor village. “After that shelling almost 4 to 5 million people have been affected”, and, in Cizîrê region, where 50% of the regular electricity comes from this plant, two million residents have been left without municipal services, electricity, power, and water.

Due to the cut of water from Turkey, the water situation was already very heavy. The rivers flow that was allowed to cross into Rojava decreased severely obviously affecting all aspects of life, drinking, hygiene and health, agriculture and food production, animal’s life, economy, education and gender dynamics. In addition, the Turkish state has also altered the water quality, releasing contaminant sewage residues in the few water still flowing into North-East Syria.

“The shellings are hurting the people of Koçerata, in all aspects of life” told us Xoşnav Hesen from the village of Girê Kendal. “These are from the attacks” he said, while showing us the deep cracks on the walls of his house. Without electricity the water pumps that secure the water supplying from the ground can’t work, the water can’t be extracted from the wells and distribute to the villages. While this is in general a fundamental problem for human’s life, in the region it is even more crucial due to the agriculture-based life of the people.

“Most of the people live from the products of the earth and the animals that they raise themselves.” told us Rûken Şexo, spokesperson of Girê Sor village. “Without water, the plants are dying and the animals can not drink. The cultures are affected, the animal’s life is affected. The base of people’s economy, of families’ economy in the region is based on this. Now the families are having economic problems, because they used a lot of money to plant and now everything is gone, the animals are dying because of lack of water”. These military operations aim to create fear and frustration. “Creating, building up, is not a problem, the problem is war. You work so much, create so much, invest so many resources, and then, in one second it gets destroyed” said Delal Şêxo from the village of Hamza Beg.

“We don’t leave our land, we organize ourselves” – Resistance of the people on their land

The current attacks led by the Turkish State must be understood in the broader context of war and ecology. The Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria encourages the establishment of cooperatives, agro-ecology, like the production of organic fertilizers, and eco-industries based on the cooperative system and on a circular approach to production and consumption. Plans regarding the use of different source of energy (solar, biogas from animal manure and organic wastes or wind energy), recovery of soil and groundwater characteristics, are made. However, these could not develop on a large scale due to the systematic destruction of basic infrastructure. This attacks forced the administration and the whole economy of North-East Syria to devote themselves toward continuous works of reparation and rebuilding, in order to reply to emergency and immediate consequences of war. The embargo also represents another significant obstacle to the development of ecological projects.

In spite of all these hardships attempts are made to foster the ability of people to organize their own forces. Despite external factors such as embargo and war creating obstacles for the progress of social-ecology, the strength of the social network resists the enemy’s attempts at displacement and psychological warfare.

People are showing a strong solidarity, the determination to stay on the lands and the population has develop its ways to withstand collectively the hardships. The municipality visits the different Communes to inform them, share evaluations about the situation, listen to their needs, try to find solution together, and to organize collectively the whole society, make every one taking responsibility for it. The people of Koçerata pull their resources in times of difficulty. Neighbors share generators and water pumps during electricity shortages, or collect funds for the installation of local generators. Some villages deliberately limit their electricity for hours to support others. Certain families combine financial resources to afford a communal water pump system independent from electricity. During the airstrikes in late December, the Koçerata community mobilized to create human shield to protect the Siwedî power plant. While the priority is to set up an emergency plan, for their long-term strategy towards social-ecology the force of solution is already here: initiative from the base, self-organization, and decentralization.

The ecological crisis and the increase of global conflicts, often for the sake of natural resources and their exploitations, are showing every day more how solutions cannot be found neither in State politics or in technology alone. Especially in times and areas of conflict, the social-ecological problems tend to be seen as second rank of importance. Opposite to this approach, the attempts made by the autonomous administration emphasize how, even in times of attacks, social-ecology can represent an answer for both the problems. As we witness, against wars and environmental destruction, social-ecological models, self-sustainability and decentralization can really constitute a solution for a lasting peace in the region. In this framework, the reality of Koçerata must be known as a meaningful and inspiring example of resistance. This is not just an example of theory but it is, in first place, an example of practice of resistance and self-organization. Against the current centralized, urbanized and mono-culture global system, based on exploiting human-land relationships, Koçerata can suggest sustainable ways of living, working and producing. This region is at the same time unique, for its history and specificity, but not alone. Every place, every community can recover its democratic heritage, and, on this basis, build strong communities and a life in harmony with nature. Values of resistance, connection with the land, communality and freedom are not limited to one geography but parts of our life, of our being part of humanity, being part of Nature. Telling about Koçerata also creates connection with many other struggles, carried on by people around the world to defend the land and build a democratic life. Understanding that the resistance in one place, however important, cannot be really successful alone. Local solutions and global changes, toward a social-ecological model, are both needed. The example of Koçerata wants to be a source of strength, hope and inspiration to think also about how we can resist and defend our territories, how we can build alliances with struggles in other geographies, communities and free life.

Event: Will Changing Behaviours Secure the Future?

Event: Will Changing Behaviours Secure the Future?

Editor’s note: This is not a DGR sponsored event. While we may not agree with all of the analysis, this event may offer some useful points into understanding the disease of wetiko. DGR knows that the only way to secure the future of life on the planet is to dismantle civilization, which is the source of the dominant culture’s behaviours. This can not be accomplished through individual lifestyle and behaviour change. But it can be accomplished by joining together with like minded people that hold the commitment to fight against the destruction of the planet that is done in the name of “progress”.

Will Changing Behaviors Secure the Future?

Tuesday, March 12th, we will be discussing how to shift the Growth economy toward an economy which serves people and ecosystems first.

A Zoom and face-to-face gathering will take place at the Kanata Legion (70 Hines Road, Ottawa, Canada) on Tuesday, March 12th. The meeting, with Zoom, begins at 1:00 pm (EST) with short panel presentations setting the theme, followed by discussion. It will be preceded for those in the area with social time and bring your own lunch. Doors open at 11:00 am. The event will be recorded and added to CACOR’s YouTube channel.
The Zoom link is:
This session is hosted by Values Committee of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) and is inspired by: World Scientists’ Warning: The behavioural crisis driving ecological overshoot; Joseph J Merz, Phoebe Barnard, William E Rees, Dane Smith, Mat Maroni, Christopher J Rhodes, Julia H Dederer, Nandita Bajaj, Michael K Joy, Thomas Wiedmann, Rory Sutherland, 2023. The panel will consist of Andrew Welch and Mike Nickerson, facilitated by Lalith Gunaratne with introductions by Gabriela Gref-Innes.
The Starting Theme:
Even with CO2 reduction and renewable electrification of everything, we still have to deal with the Growth based system that is overwhelming Earth.
Humankind needs to pioneer new values and cultural forms that are not dependent on continuous Growth.
Some Questions to consider:
What are the psychological and other reasons that society adheres to the “Growth Everlasting” ideology ?
How is that ideology being sustained ? How is commercialization and marketing hijacking human impulses and public domain.
How might we work with humanity’s underlying motivations to secure long-term well-being in response to the problems of growing past Earth’s ability to sustain us ?
Meeting details:
As with CACOR’s previous gatherings, doors will open at 11, with a $5.00 charge to cover the cost of the room rental. You can bring your own lunch or something to share with the group. Coffee and tea will be available and the bar will be open for wine and beer sale. Plenty of free parking is available.
Hoping you can join us,
Yours, Mike N.
A world at peace and in balance with the environment is hard for our minds to grasp, but it is not beyond the capacity of our hearts to experience and to hunger for.
Seventh Generation Initiative
Stop State Grant for Copper Mining Porcupine Mountains

Stop State Grant for Copper Mining Porcupine Mountains

Editor’s Note: This is an update to a story that we published about the proposed copper mining in Porcupine Mountains. Michigan Strategic Fund is considering a grant for the Copperwood project – a project that will destroy the natural habitat in the Porcupine Mountains. This is an urgent call for action, you can find the original piece here.

URGENT: Michigan considering $50M grant for Copperwood

We are writing today with an urgent action request that needs to be completed as soon as possible. If you care about the health of Lake Superior and about the wilderness quality of the North Country Trail and Porcupine Mountains State Park, now is the time to fight for it.

An article released on January 30th reports that the Michigan Strategic Fund is currently considering a $50 million grant for the Copperwood project. This money would more than double Highland Copper’s bank account, but more importantly, a State endorsement would provide a massive boost in momentum and be used as leverage for future funds from grants, investors, and loans. To quote Highland Copper’s CEO Barry O’Shea: “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of how our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.

Fortunately, a few of the MSF board members have expressed doubts regarding the necessity and wisdom of the grant, and the decision has been deferred to subcommittee for expedited consideration. We don’t know the timeframe in which a decision will be made, which is why it is crucial we act NOW.

We are asking you to write a message to the Michigan Strategic Fund board members who are deliberating over this grant as we speak. Their emails are provided below. We have already sent them a thorough elaboration on all our key arguments, so you only need to follow up with a few short paragraphs or even a few sentences. Write about whatever points resonate personally with you, but keep in mind, these are businesspeople who are interested mainly in the soundness of their investment.

Here are a few points to inspire your pen:

General Arguments

  • Are they aware of this petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing Copperwood’s development? 11,000 is more than the populations of the closest three towns to the Mine combined (Wakefield, Bessemer, and Ironwood). Contrary to what they have been told, social license for this project is far from universal.
  • The board members are likely not familiar with this area— remind them that this is not “the middle of nowhere”: the juncture of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, the North Country Trail, and Lake Superior is one of the most spectacular outdoor recreation areas in the country.
  • Outdoor recreation contributes over $10 billion to Michigan’s economy annually; mining, around $1 billion. An operating mine would disrupt this thriving outdoor recreation area with noise pollution, light pollution, subterranean blasting, and heavy industrial traffic.
  • Copperwood would be the closest sulfide mine to Lake Superior in history. Copper sulfide mines always contaminate and tailings dams are far from invincible.
  • Inform them that, despite what they may have been told, copper is NOT a critical mineral and therefore there is no urgent need to fund this project.

Specific Economic Arguments

  • Highland Copper is a foreign company, largely funded by foreign investors;
  • The copper will be transported to Canada for processing, meaning a great many of the highest-paying jobs will go to foreigners. See the 2023 Feasibility Study:

P. 1.18 states concentrate to be shipped by a trans-load facility in Champion, MI to have access to Canadian National Railway networks (CN).
P. 19.2.1 discusses the need for downstream refining and smelting: “Several smelters could receive concentrate with the nearby candidates being the Horne smelter located in Noranda, Quebec or the copper smelter in Sudbury, Ontario. Other alternatives include seaborne export to Asia or Europe.”

  • If this project is such a slam dunk, why haven’t they been able to procure funding after over a decade of scrambling?
  • And why did their CEO step down just a few months ago?
  • This study on the economic impact of mining shows that only 25% of mines lead to long-term economic benefit for communities, with half of those coming from before 1982, and most of those being new coal strip mines out West; in other words, it is an exceedingly small fraction of mines which will lead to meaningful economic revitalization.
  • The study specifically cites the issue of “flickering“— the tendency for metal mines to close and re-open, again and again, as the price of a mineral fluctuates above and below the cost of operation; this creates much uncertainty in the lives of workers. Flickering is what has defined Copperwood’s entire nonexistence thus far: the flickering of funding, the flickering of proposed start-up dates, the flickering of CEOs. Highland Copper has stated again and again that, in addition to awaiting the necessary capital, they are awaiting a surge in the price of copper to make the project viable— Great… but what happens if the price plunges after the mine begins operation?
  • This is a big chunk of change for a project that will only last 11 years;
  • Since HC’s market cap is only $43 million — well short of the $390 million in startup capital required — MSF would be investing in a company that likely will be taken over by a larger partner at some point before the mine is up and running;
  • Interim CEO Barry O’Shea said, “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of (how) our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.
    In other words, he has stated explicitly that they want to use an official State endorsement as leverage to win over more outside equity investors and bank loans— a pretty suspect use of Michigan taxpayer money, don’t you think?
  • Finally, Highland Copper no doubt touted their “resolutions of support” gathered from area townhalls. Keep in mind, those resolutions were agreed upon by no more than two or three dozen people. Meanwhile, there is a petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing the Mine.


Now, without further ado, the details of the action:

  1. Firstly, please submit your short message via this online form (allows for limited length )
  2. Secondly, send that same message, or a longer version, to the e-mail addresses below— you may copy and paste the entire list directly into the CC: field of a new email. These addresses comprise ALL the Michigan Strategic Fund board members, plus a few more of special relevance:

You can also call the office of Quentin L. Messer, Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund:


Again, this is our most important action to date, and the clock is ticking!

Thank you for your help, everyone! Remember, ProtectThePorkies is not an organization, but a movement, comprised of anyone who feels a connection to this area and a desire to fight for its wellbeing! Take care!

WHO Announcement of Guideline on Transgender Health

WHO Announcement of Guideline on Transgender Health

Editorial – Urgent Call for Comments on WHO Announcement of Guideline on Transgender Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on December 18, 2023 that it is going to develop a guideline on the health of “trans and gender diverse” [sic] people.

The WHO announcement states:

“The guideline is supposed to focus on 5 areas: provision of gender-affirming care, including hormones; health workers education and training for the provision of gender-inclusive care; provision of health care for trans and gender diverse people who suffered interpersonal violence based in their needs; health policies that support gender-inclusive care, and legal recognition of self-determined gender identity.”

For this, WHO has assembled a guideline development group (GDG). The GDG is composed of 21 members. The GDG consists of researchers with relevant technical expertise, among end-users (programme managers and health workers) and among representatives of “trans and gender diverse” [sic] community organisations. The WHO announcement has also published the biographies of the GDG members.

All of this is open for public comment till January 8, 2024. You can email your comments to

In the following piece, we point out some problems with the above mentioned propositions, why it matters and what you can do about it.

“Gender-affirming care”–what do they mean when they say that?

The WHO announcement defines “gender-affirming care” as a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity” when it conflicts with their sex. Behavioral intervention means behaving in ways that the society considers typical of the supposed gender identity of the individual. This is not harmful if a man or woman decides to break gender stereotypes and behaves in ways previously considered typical of the other gender. On the contrary, as a feminist, we support breaking gender norms. But when it comes to “gender-affirming care,” major questions arise:

Why is it that a trans-identifying man feels more feminine by wearing dresses and makeup? Who decides what kind of behavior is masculine and what kind of behavior is feminine?

The answer is easy: thousands of years of patriarchy that has created a system where certain behavior is considered feminine and others masculine. Through “gender-affirming care,” when a health professional recommends a trans-identifying man to act more feminine in order to conform to his “gender identity,” the health care professional is reinforcing these stereotypes created by patriarchy. Both patriarchy and “gender-affirming care” state that, if you are a particular gender, you have to perform in ways stereotypical to that gender in order to be happy. The only difference between the two is that patriarchy bases your gender on your sex (a biological reality), whereas “gender-affirming care” bases your gender in your gender identity (a psychological feeling that is in turn based on the social construct of gender).

Psychological intervention in a “gender-affirming care” is one that validates the client’s gender dysphoria. It does not challenge the dysphoria in any way. While validation might, on the surface, seem a compassionate response (and it is for a lot of situations), it is not an appropriate one in many situations. For example, an anorexic client believes she is fat, even when her body is dying out of a lack of nutrition. If a therapist tried to “validate” her feelings of being fat, he would (quite rightly) be questioned on the ethics of his action. The same goes for body dysmorphic disorder, where a person is obsessed with a part of her body being “abnormal” or “not right” that it affects her daily functioning. There’s also body integrity identity disorder, where a person believes that he cannot be his real self unless he destroys a specific part of his body and opts for voluntary mutilation. How would you feel about a psychologist who would validate a person’s desire to mutilate his body and assist in the process? Here’s a video of a woman who claims to have voluntarily poured toilet cleaner in her eyes in order to blind herself.

Is gender dysphoria like body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia nervosa, i.e. arising out of a deep-rooted hatred for one’s body, that needs to be challenged ethically, or is it like a condition that needs to be accepted?

There are differing opinions on this. Yet, there is one thing that cannot be discredited by anyone. It is that most people suffering from gender dysphoria have a history of childhood trauma and other problems, as confirmed by a whitsleblower of a so-called gender-affirming service. When a person suffers from that kind of trauma, feeling a hatred or disgust with one’s body, or even dissociation from one’s body, is a common response. Talk to anyone who has been sexually assaulted, or molested about the immediate response of her body. Psychologists or psychotherapists know this. Yet, under “gender-affirming care”, they conveniently overlook this. Under “gender-affirming care,” you cannot talk about the childhood trauma, because anything that mildly challenges their dysphoria is considered (in an Orwellian twist of language) malpractice. In reality, not dealing with trauma should be dealt as an unethical conduct for a psychologist.

Medical intervention in “gender-affirming care” involves the use of puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and sex reassignment surgeries (SRS). Puberty blockers are used in prepubescenct children to stop puberty, because, we (as a culture) finally decided that a prepubescent child can have the right to make life-altering decisions. GnRH, a category of drugs used as puberty blocker, suppresses the release of testosterone in male and estradiol in female, thus stopping the development of primary and secondary sex characteristics. If taken for a long time, it permanently affects the body’s production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), lutenizing hormone (LH), testosterone and estradiol – all of which are related to a normal reproductive and sexual functioning. And, this is a decision a child is making before puberty, before the child has even had a chance to see himself as a sexual and/or reproductive being. Lupron is also the drug that is used to chemically castrate male sex offenders. However, it is recommended to be reserved for offenders with “highest risk of sexual offending due to its extensive side-effects“.

Simply put, the drug that is too harmful for a person with a low to medium risk of sexual offending, is promoted by “gender-affirming care” to children without a fully developed prefrontal cortex (i.e. without the ability to fully comprehend consequences of one’s actions).

HRT and SRS are not better either. There are many who regret these interventions for the impact that they had, and mainly because they were never given the actual intervention that they needed: trauma healing. A pioneer study looked into the lived experiences of 237 detransitioners on their regret, medical complications, and even, the vitriol they face from trans-rights activists.

For a well-written account of a detransitioner, read Kiera Bell’s story. Her tireless activism and legal lawsuit was what brought in stricter regulation for medical intervention in the UK.

Self-identified gender identity

Self-identified gender identity or Self-ID (as it is commonly known) means the ability of a person to be able to change one’s sex legally without the need for any medical intervention or for any form of psychological assessment. Trans rights activists have been pushing for self-ID in many countries, claiming that it would help with gender dysphoria. After all, treating a person in the way that they desire to be treated should not have been a problem. Unfortunately, it turned out to be. It meant rapists immediately after conviction claiming to be women and then being housed in women’s prisons, where they get access to vulnerable women. It meant men claiming to be a woman getting into seats reserved for a woman. It meant mediocre male athletes claiming to be women and playing in women’s sports, where due to their biological advantage, they easily win the competitions. It meant pedophiles claiming to be women to get lighter sentences. For countries where law does not recognize a woman raping woman, it could mean no sentence for a rapist claiming to be a woman. For more on how self-ID has been misused by sex offenders, read this open letter by Derrick, Lierre and Max.

Self-ID is an issue where the demands of the trans rights movement directly clash with the hard-fought rights of women for centuries. Sadly, many have chosen to forego of women’s rights in order to validate men’s feelings.

Why it matters?

WHO is a leading body on health related information throughout the world. Although WHO guidelines are not binding (i.e. no country is forced to comply by its standards), it does have high influence in creating standards across many countries. This is especially true for low and middle income countries (LMIC). LMIC lack the resources and expertise to develop guidelines of their own. As a result, they have a greater reliance on WHO guidelines for health related issues. Regardless of the economic status of the countries, WHO is an authority body when it comes to health related matters globally. It is bound to have a great influence in the policies of all nations.

What can you do?

  • Submit your comments to The deadline for submitting comments on the WHO announcement is January 8, 2024.
  • Sign this petition by Who Decides It explains many issues with the announcement that may not have been covered in the above piece.
  • Find women and men around you and organize to defend these hard-fought rights in your locality.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

The ESA Is Not Protecting Wolverines

The ESA Is Not Protecting Wolverines

Editor’s Note: There are fewer than 300 wolverines in the contiguous United States. Wolverines were listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states  under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in November 2023. But there are still exceptions to the protection for the wolverines. The following is a piece written by Mike Garrity, the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. He describes the legal situation regarding the protection of the wolverines. Finally the piece ends with a call for action to remove these exceptions.

Wolverines Protected Under the ESA. Here is the Rest of the Story

By Mike Garrity/Counterpunch

The Nov. 2023 issue of Scientific American reports that more than 1,600 species have been listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but less than 6% of species have recovered. We have to start recovering species and with wolverine, we need to start by protecting their habitat and outlawing trapping there with real protective administrative rules or regulations, not weak protections that place imperiled wolverines on the road to extinction.

After more than 20 years of advocacy and litigation by the Western Environmental Law Center for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council, and other wildlife conservation groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that wolverines warrant federal protection as a threatened species under the ESA.

Protects species and the ecosystems upon which they depend

The purposes of the ESA are two-fold: to prevent extinction and to recover species. It therefore “protect[s] species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

We are thankful after two successful lawsuits and court orders that the Fish and Wildlife Service finally came to its senses and protected wolverines under the ESA. But like everything, the devil is in the details.

Wolverines are now protected under the ESA but the next step is recovering wolverines and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The Fish and Wildlife Service does this through administrative rules to issue regulations that are necessary to protect and recover species listed as threatened and their habitat.


The proposed administrative rule for wolverines has exceptions that include:

(1) taking, or killing, wolverines due to scientific research conducted on wolverines by a federal or Tribal biologists,

(2) incidental take or destruction of wolverine habitat from logging for the purposes of reducing wildfire,

(3) incidental take or killing of wolverines from legal trapping consistent with state and Tribal trapping rules.

Before our court victory stopped recreational wolverine trapping in Montana in 2012, trappers killed about a dozen wolverines a year. Since then, 12 wolverines have been accidentally trapped in Montana, leading to three deaths. In Idaho, nine wolverines have been trapped resulting in two deaths that they know of since 2017.

Lose a foot

Assuming a trapper could even release an angry wolverine from a trap, most animals released after their blood circulation was cut off to a foot for several days in subzero weather end up with their frozen foot falling off, according to the Carter Niemeyer, a retired trapper for U.S.D.A.’s Wildlife Services. It is hard enough for a wolverine with four feet to survive. It is almost impossible for a wolverine to survive in the wild with only three feet. Therefore, the death toll on wolverines from accidental trapping is most likely higher.

Continued Destruction of Wolverine Habitat

The proposed administrative exception to allow the destruction or “take” of wolverine habitat for logging that pretends to fireproof a forest is an exception that swallows the rule. Almost every logging or clearcutting project on national forests in wolverine habitat is now for “fireproofing forests,” which is impossible to do and is just an excuse to mow down our national forests for private profit. We cannot help reclusive wolverines recover if we continue to bulldoze logging roads through all of their habitat and clear-cut forests.

What you can do

Please consider asking to the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the exceptions allowing trapping, clearcutting and bulldozing logging roads in wolverine habitat by: going to In the search box, enter FWS-R6-ES-2023-0216, which is the docket number for this rulemaking.


(2) By hard copy: U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES- 2023-0216; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Comments are due by January 28, 2024.

Thank you for considering commenting on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s pathetic wolverine regulations, which won’t recover wolverines.

Banner: Wolverine on rocky ground. Photo: Public Domain

Hey y’all! FYI we had a glitch on our donation website for the last couple weeks, We encourage anyone to make any year-end donations they’d like to make using this link?

Thank you very much! Happy solstice!