Historical data and an in–depth examination of two cases indicate that current approaches to gold mining on indigenous lands in Mexico under neoliberal assumptions generate environmental pollution and severe community disruption. Indigenous communities rich in minerals are now targeted by multinational mining corporations supplying world markets. Local agricultural decline pressures residents to embrace the limited jobs generated by mining. Yet current minerals extraction, including associated water pollution, can permanently lay waste to all sustainable rural livelihoods. Realising this, indigenous communities are building alternative and diverse economic foundations on collectively–managed territories. While international legal norms require host states to support indigenous self–determination in development, this duty is frequently ignored by states seeking aggregate economic growth. In defence, indigenous municipalities have fashioned political coalitions with neighbouring communities and international environmental groups. But external pressures and internal divisions limit their ability to act as stewards of the environment.
Keywords: gold mining, barite mining, indigenous communities, environmental pollution, water pollution, acidic mine drainage, AMD, indigenous rights, indigenous self–determination, Mexico, environmental coalitions, indigenous lands, multinational mining corporations, MNCs, mineral extraction, rural areas, political coalitions, environmental stewardship