The hill overlooking the tailings pond—a vast, dammed tub of liquid residue—was littered with bones. Residents from the area said the goats and cattle that once grazed the land had died since mining operations began a few years ago. They held our hands as we crossed a river, directing us to jump from rock to rock to avoid plunging a foot into the polluted current. The human settlements tucked in the valley beneath the white smoke snaking into the sky appeared to be the only life remaining in the area. We were at Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, one of the largest gold mines in the world.
I am an attorney with the Global Justice Clinic (GJC) of NYU School of Law. Since 2013, GJC has provided technical support to the Kolektif Jistis Min (Justice in Mining Collective or KJM), a group of Haitian social movement organizations formed to support communities in Haiti’s mineral belt and to encourage a national dialogue about the industry. In March, I traveled with members of KJM to the Dominican Republic to meet with organizations and academics studying the mining sector and with residents from communities directly affected by mining.