Three indigenous communities in the Bolivian highlands take on the mining companies polluting their water. They demand compensation and full information, but the miners have the government’s backing and can operate with apparent impunity. A story of resistance, courage, and the fight for environmental justice.
It’s the sort of capitalism ‘which only extracts but never gives back’. Mining corporations – mostly Chinese – ravage the Bolivian highlands with full support of the government. Their wastewater, polluted with heavy metals, flows into the rivers and lakes. The drinking water for the indigenous communities is not drinkable anymore, the fish that they depend on for food dies. People move away, causing age-old communities to whither. As one indigenous activist says: ‘It’s as if the mining company was a machine gun annihilating all us indigenous villagers.’
However, local communities organise into grassroots organisations and rise up, demanding compensation and a voice. Like brave María Rafael, a professional nurse, who sees people struggling with health problems and speaks up. Mining companies start a smear campaign against her and she is threatened with death. But she is not afraid. Because, as she says: ‘My soul is clean. I’m ready to leave.’