AREAS OF EXPERTISE

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ACCESS TO WATER

Conflicts over water are the most common cause of violence in the extractive industry.  One fifth of the world’s population suffers water scarcity and this number is increasing with climate change. Extractive companies’ intensive use of water can impact a community’s water security negatively. Avanzar works at the intersection between human rights and these industrial environmental impacts. We find that meaningful community involvement is the most effective way to prevent and resolve conflict stemming from water security issues. Through direct participation and empowered training, community members can be an active partner managing water risks.

Participatory Water Monitoring Projects

Avanzar has a proven track record establishing trusted, neutral, legitimate, scientifically rigorous, accessible and transparent community monitoring systems. Avanzar established community-based water monitoring committees at both exploration and operations phases of a mining project and transferred the management of their activities to local social and technical experts for long-term facilitation. In 2019, the United Nations highlighted the Panama water monitoring committee, Defensores de Recursos Hídricos, as one of nine projects that contribute directly towards the Sustainable Development Goals (6) “Clean water and sanitation”, (16) “Peace, justice, and strong institutions,” (17) “Partnerships for goals,” and (5) “Gender equality.”

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 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. Avanzar engages with eleven impacts communities to select representatives to the community. These representatives were trained and empowered to run the water monitoring committee. They 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. 

TRAINING

Meaningful community participation only occurs with the community is well trained and understands the purpose of the monitoring and how to understand and use the data it gathers.

 

Avanzar has experience building the capacity of community representatives to ensure they can over time carry out the monitoring and train their fellow community members. The following training is provided to all community representatives who participate in monitoring:
 

  • Organizational capacity: how to run a meeting, decision-making processes.

  • Public speaking

  • Laboratory capabilities and analyses

  • The mining process

  • General environmental quality, including a discussion of baseline/background conditions, impacts from mining, impacts from other land uses, etc.

  • Environmental law

  • Environmental monitoring methods

  • Conflict resolution