Learn how extractive projects like mining, logging, and fossil fuel extraction impacts other environmental and social concerns. Click on the links below to see how extractive industries affect...

In addition, this timeline presents some of the examples of extractive industries and its impacts on communities and the environment over a 500 year period. 

It's also important to celebrate successes of communities seeking to prevent the harms of extractivism and to glean lessons for future struggles. In this 80-minute program, authors Robin Broad and John Cavanagh tell the story of water defenders in El Salvador who persisted in keeping gold  mining out of their communities and eventually winning a legal case. Their book is The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed.

The Amazon

Throughout the Amazon, indigenous and local communities are being threatened and displaced by extractive industries, like logging, oil, gas, and dam projects, as well as by large-scale infrastructure developments, like roads, electrical interconnections, and commercial ports. 

Indigenous people have historically gained little from large-scale resource development on their traditional lands, and have suffered from its negative impacts on their environment, cultures, economies, and societies.

Often times, they are not consulted by their home governments and the operating companies before a project begins and they have very few avenues for stopping the projects. 

Not only do extractive projects threaten indigenous communities, they also contribute to climate change through the increased production of fossil fuels, deforestation, and environmental degradation. At the same time, extractive industries decrease the ability of vulnerable communities to respond to the impacts of climate change. 

Learn more about how extractive industries impact the Amazon here.


Extractive industries visibly tear open the land and pollute the air and water. What starts to go missing with such disruption isn’t as easily seen -- the animals, plants, the delicate balance of life that forms an eco-system – but is just as harmful, if not more so.

Many residents of the Dominican Republic have rallied against mining on Loma Miranda, a mountain home to several species of reptiles, amphibians, birds and plants found only there. Loma Miranda also provides most of the local region’s water and acts as a natural barrier, protecting surrounding communities from cyclones and other natural disasters.

Communities in Panama, meanwhile, have been protesting the construction of large-scale hydro-electric dams that are designed to serve as carbon offsets for fossil fuel projects elsewhere.  Watersheds have been degraded, once-common bird species disappeared, and areas once abundant with many kinds of fish become nearly dry.

And in the United States, environmentalists are concerned that the Trump Administration’s push for more energy production is threatening previous protections for wildlife. For instance, the Bureau of Land Management has altered its instructions to allow for oil and gas drilling in the habitat of the greater sage grouse, a bird declining in numbers in the sagebrush region of the West.  

Learn more about how extractive industries impact biodiversity here.

Climate Change

Extractive industries are a major contributor to climate change, since they are responsible for extracting the natural resources whose consumption and extraction release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Even metallic mining such as silver and iron contribute to climate change given the energy needed to extract it, transportation to another country or region where it is processed and then sold. 

Extractive industries affect more than the health of the planet. They affect the health of our communities too. Air pollution is equal opportunistic when it comes to impacting human health. But when much of the infrastructure of the U.S. petroleum industry is concentrated near low-income communities, its effect on these communities and their residents becomes outsized.

Learn more about how extractive industries impact climate change here.


Many countries with high levels of natural resource wealth also have higher rates of income inequality. This is known as the “resource curse,” or the “paradox of plenty.” This paradox exists due to weak policies and high levels of corruption.

Corruption can drive conflicts, disenfranchise communities from public services and infrastructure, encourage or prop up autocratic governments, indebt countries, and make communities dependent on imports when previously they were more self-sufficient. Women and children experience unique ramifications of corruption such as more difficult access to education, job loss, and trafficking. While we are focusing here on extractive industries, corruption is possible in relation to any development project.

Learn more about how extractive industries impact corruption here.

Extractivism: A Difficult History

Extractivism is a system rooted in a colonial and racist mindset that dates back more than 500 years. 

The justifications for exploitation of people and natural resources changed over the centuries but the devastation was the same: in the 16th century, indigenous peoples were told to convert to Christianity or they would be killed; in the 19th century, they were told to become civilized or they would be killed; in the 20th century they were told to develop or they would be killed.

This timeline presents just some of the examples of extractive industries and the impacts on communities and the environment.