Despite Extractivism

Counter-mapping in the Sperrins

V’cenza Cirefice and participants

Dalradian Gold are seeking planning permission for a huge gold mine and processing plant near Greencastle in the Sperrin Mountains. The communities resisting this project have faced criminalisation, intimidation and oppression, mirroring the legacies of conflict and colonialism that still have a material impact on the present. The expanding extractive frontier pushes into Europe, rebranding mining as essential for the green transition. Ireland  has emerged as a mining hotspot. Drawing on a long history of resistance, communities in the Sperrins have been building even stronger bonds of solidarity, locally and internationally, that speak to the world’s that are possible, despite extractivism. 

This intervention draws on the research of V’cenza Cirefice who has been engaging with communities in the Sperrin mountains, North of Ireland, to understand their resistance to extractivism. Using a methodology of activist engagement, photovoice and counter-mapping, this project is exploring the ways in which people relate to each other and the more-than-human world. These ways of being and seeing the world are often relational and deeply rooted in place, with the land and with each other. They represent ways of being that exist despite extractivism. 

Despite Extractivism on Crockanboy Hill

Credit: Gordon Dunn

The Greencastle People's Office

An occupation and site of resistance for over 1000 days.

“The people of the GPO take such time and care with all the visitors, explaining things and sharing their stories.” (participant)

The Green Road

The Green Road is an ancient pilgrimage route over the Sperrins.

Connecting the ancient province of Ulster, it was used by the Gaelic earls during their flight from Ulster in the 17th Century.

A legal battle to declare this a right of way is underway as the path runs through the proposed mine site. 

Local people have been enacting an embodied resistance

by walking the Green Road and in doing so drawing on the strength of their ancestors. 

Mass Rock and Virgin Mary Statue

A sacred space of worship and a reminder of colonial oppression


Crockanboy Road

"Public Notice

Assertion of rights of community

We, the people of the Sperrins, assert the right of the public to pass and re-pass along this road,

just as our forefathers did for generations before us,

and our descendants will continue to do for generations after us. 

People, nature and eco-systems are all part of our community including

the mountains, hills, rivers, streams, sacred spaces, bogs, trees and all living therein.

We, people and nature are interdependent on each other.

Our natural environment has the right to exist, thrive, regenerate and be protected. 

This road does not belong to DfI roads branch to give away to Dalradian or any other;

the people are custodians of this road for the children and future generations.

We assert our rights: to live in a healthy climate, to clean water, clean air, unpolluted land and sustainable farming.

We assert our rights to make decisions about projects which affect these rights. 

Furthermore, it is the duty of us all to protect and defend the rights of our community.

Asserted this day, 3rd April 2021 by the people of the Sperrins". 

Ní neart go cur le chéile 

“There is no strength without unity”

“Neart” is an Irish word that means more than just strength, it’s a bond that cannot be weakened or broken

Networks of solidarity extend from this mountain in County Tyrone, to grassroots groups and communities across Ireland,

and other territories across the world.

These have included; The Andes of Peru, highlands of Colombia, the foothills of the Troodos mountains in Cyprus, and Chiapas in Mexico,

Fennoscandia, Romania, Honduras, The Lakota name a few.

Through resistance love, care, solidarity, friendship, learnings and strength have been built.

Learnings have flowed into this area from the majority world, where communities have been resisting oppression for hundreds of years. 


Bog Cotton

Is the sign of an active, living, moving, breathing bog.

Many participants have highlighted the dangers

of locating a mine and waste dump on top of this active landscape. 

It's often said, you cannot trust the bog...

Exploratory tunnel at Curraghinalt

Greencastle Village


To support the resistance in the Sperrins you can:

Follow the anti-mining groups online:
Save Our Sperrins
Greencastle People’s Office
Love Screen Stop Mining

Sign an objection letter and email it to this address
This can be done from anywhere in the world and there are already 40,000 objections to this project!

About V'cenza Cirefice

V’cenza is an Irish Research Council PhD researcher at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her research explores resistance to extractivism in the Sperrins through participatory visual methodologies. 


The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.

This project is made possible by support from 
ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.


WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.

The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.

ONCA logo

ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.

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About Despite Extractivism

As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:

• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.

• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community

• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.

• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling

• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics

Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.

Despite Extractivism
is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the  diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives.  How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives?  Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?

Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to
Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts. 

There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism:  V’Cenza Cirefe’s
Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England)  and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).

There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).

There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).

There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).

Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s
REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).

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