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The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil Database is intended to be a practical resource for human rights lawyers, researchers, activists, policy makers, international organizations, civil society actors, and other stakeholders interested in resource-related conflicts and human rights violations. The database contains information on eight mining projects: El Dorado (El Salvador), Cerro Blanco, Escobal and Marlin (Guatemala), San Martín and ASP & ASP2 (Honduras), La Libertad (Nicaragua), and Reducción Norte & Corazón de Tinieblas (Mexico). The database is also available in Spanish. There are additional details below about how to make the most out of the search function and access the information relevant to your research.

The first phase of database development was carried out with the support of an ESRC Future Leaders research award (ESRC ES/N017870/1) and created by Dr Ainhoa ​​Montoya (principal investigator) with the support of research assistant, Constanza Pauchulo. The second phase of database development is part of The Juridification of Resource Conflicts research project, which is supported by The British Academy’s Sustainable Development Program, part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. In this second phase, the project has been expanded and redesigned by Dr Ainhoa ​​Montoya, Dr Rachel Sieder and Dr Yacotzin Bravo, supported by research assistant, Dr Rupert Knox.

The information contained in the database comes from fieldwork carried out in four Central American countries and Mexico. The database also includes open-source internet research that brings together publicly available information from diverse media outlets, governmental and non-governmental reports, academic and other expert research sources, and publications from local organizations representing communities directly impacted by resource extraction.

The database does not aim to be an exhaustive resource on all extractive-related conflicts in the region, but instead focuses on a limited number of paradigmatic cases around which we have identified a complex and comprehensive range of uses of the jural.

Database design

The database is designed around three main results types: “Legal Action”, “Extractive Project” and “Legal Artefact”. “Legal Actions” are broadly defined to include both formal judicial, quasi-judicial, and legislative proceedings, as well as “legal-like” activities that mimic formal procedures but may not be legally recognised or binding. These “Legal Action” pages describe the particular legal or quasi-legal processes involved in each extractive project. The “Legal Action” pages are associated with the “Legal Artefact” pages. These contain the particular legal texts or documents, such as legislation or written submissions to judicial or quasi-judicial bodies, which are related to or result from a specific “Legal Action”. Wherever possible, “Legal Artefact” pages make documents available to researchers through links and/or as downloadable files. The “Extractive Project” pages allow users to search for general company and background information relating to a specific project, and include links to the relevant “Legal Actions”.

Database search and filters

In this second phase of database development, the search function has been simplified to enable researchers to more easily locate particular Legal Actions, Legal Artefacts and Extractive Projects using keywords and a range of filters on the Database Search page. The filters include: Country, Company, Natural Resource, Type of Legal Action, Human Rights Violated or Claimed, and Jurisdiction. The Database Search page allows users to perform free-text word searches. The list of results can then be narrowed down by using relevant filters on each side of the page. Alternatively, users can apply filters to the unsearched database, to select Legal Actions, Legal Artefacts and the content of Extractive Project pages on the basis of the filters. In both cases, the list of results provides access to particular pages which contain more detailed information and links on the Legal Actions or Legal Artefacts associated with the projects.

Another means of accessing information in the database is to go directly to a list of the eight “Extractive Project” pages from the link at the bottom of the database homepage. These pages summarise the features of each project, including: a) general information about the extractive project, such as the current phase, company details, natural resource, extraction method and other background data; b) a chronological list of all “Legal Action” pages associated with the project; c) a chronological list of some “Political Actions” which occurred in the context of the conflict over each project; d) a list of links to database pages with relevant research or technical reports; and e) the reference sources used to compile information on the “Extractive Project” page.


On the right-hand side of each of the eight “Extractive Project” pages, there is a thumbnail link to a timeline in pdf format. This provides a visual aid setting out a chronological sequence, which is not exhaustive, of political and legal actions and events involved in each project. Where there are associated “Legal Action” or “Political Action” pages in the database, hypertext links are provided in the timeline entries to enable rapid access to the relevant database pages.

Political Actions and Reports

It is important to note that “Political Action” and “Report” pages (both accessible from the “Extractive Project” pages) provide a brief description and/or source of information. They are not intended as an exhaustive reference of all political actions and research or technical reports that may be available on a specific project. Rather, they aim to provide some contextual information about the types of political actions (especially by civil society actors and local grassroots movements) that accompany legal actions and often create the political climate necessary for reforms, such as legislative bans on metal mining or the legal recognition of new or emerging human rights. Likewise, the research and technical reports included in the database may, in some cases, be related to a specific mining project or they may provide relevant background information, such as the general state of human rights and mining in a particular country.

All reports included in the database have been compiled from publicly available online sources. Should the authors have any concerns regarding their inclusion, please contact Dr Ainhoa ​​Montoya.

Notice and Takedown Procedure

All documents included in the database have been compiled from publicly available online sources or have been provided by the individuals who prepared them. If you have any questions or concerns regarding their inclusion, please contact Dr. Ainhoa Montoya.


The database should be cited as follows: Ainhoa Montoya, Rachel Sieder, Yacotzin Bravo Espinosa, Rupert Knox and María C. Pauchulo. 2020. The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil Database. Retrieved from


While the researchers have tried to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible, we would welcome feedback on any entries that require updating or correction, as well as information about legal actions that may be missing from the database. Comments or concerns about the content of the database as well as suggestions for its future development and improvement should be addressed to Dr Ainhoa ​​Montoya.