ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING PROJECTS
Avanzar has developed expertise in establishing
community-based monitoring committees in and around extractive projects. The environmental parameters monitored vary between water quality, quantity, and air monitoring.
After founding participatory committees at four very different sites, Avanzar has developed a strong understanding of the elements that make community-based water monitoring a successful vehicle for corporate-community engagement and an independent, technical monitor.
Methodology Adaptive to Different Contexts
The first committee was established at an operating gold site that is surrounded by Indigenous communities (with two ethnicities) and a strong NGO presence. The second committee was established at an advanced gold exploration project near a small town that is home to a more educated and urban population. The second site has the added complexity of being close to a lake that is shared by two countries. The third committee was established at a copper mining project in the construction phase in an area with limited public services and infrastructure.
Avanzar adapts its methodology to the different contexts through an initial community needs assessment. This assessment determines whether there is interest on behalf of the communities in establishing a community-based monitoring committee and if so, who should participate, how representatives should be selected, and what they deemed to be the critical success factors. Based on this initial research, Avanzar developed and executed a plan to support the communities in setting up a representative water monitoring committee, including: organizing support from the local universities for technical and organizational capacity-building; arranging a third party to be a liaison for transferring funds from the companies to the community committee; liaising with the company on specific issues; working with government authorities to provide community training and increased oversight; and providing on-going support to the monitoring committee in such areas as training, capacity building, and communications to local communities, and external constituencies such as governments, NGOs, foreign Embassies and general media. The ultimate goal is to promote the autonomy of these committees to act in their own best interests and significant progress has been made in achieving this. The goal is to transfer the responsibility and capacity to the local community and university partner to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.
SAMPLE PROJECTS INCLUDE:
Asociación de Monitoreo Ambiental Comunitario (AMAC). Avanzar personnel led the formation of a community committee that monitored the surface and underground water around the Marlin Mine in Guatemala. Twelve Indigenous communities led the water sampling. They were trained and accompanied by technical personnel of the well-respected Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC). The community members took water samples, sent them to a laboratory in the US for analysis and compared the results with the company and at a times the government. This committee became the reference for the community for all Conflicts over water are the most common cause of violence in the extractive industry. This committee continued until four years after the closure of the mine with Avanzar’s facilitation until 2017.
Asociación de Protección Ambiental Regional (AMAR). After our first success in Guatemala, Avanzar was hired to organize a second water monitoring committee at the Bluestone extractive project that was still in feasibility. Modeled after AMAC, AMAR differed in methodology since the project was early stage and did not have the funds for independent monitoring. Instead, the community participants were trained on monitoring and observed the mine’s water sampling process and reviewed the results. In 2015, Avanzar transferred all management and facilitation to the local technical and community partners and they continue to evolve and grow their scope and work. See more about their current work in the video on this page.
Defensores de Recursos Hídricos. Minera Panama’s EIA requires community participatory monitoring. After an initial unsuccessful attempt, Avanzar replaced the existing consultant and engaged with eleven impact communities to select representatives to the committee. Along with a local professor, Avanzar trained the representatives to run the water monitoring process. The community members selected their own objectives, name, location of the monitoring points, and overall function. The representatives communicate the results to the larger community and engage with the company when there are concerns regarding the quality of the water. In the last year, the committee has decided to expand to air monitoring.
Monitoreo Hídrico Participativo. In 2016, the Newmont Peñasquito mine requested the formation of a community participatory monitoring process. This would be the first Avanzar established a committee at a mine that was already operating and there were intense conflicts regarding water security. Avanzar organized a parallel monitoring process for each community and partnered with the renowned Centro del Agua para America Latina y el Caribe, a project of the Interamerican Development Bank and the Technological University of Monterrey.