About the database

The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil Database is intended to be a practical resource for human rights lawyers, researchers, activists, policy-makers, global organisations, members of the business community, civil society actors, and others interested in resource-related conflicts and human rights violations. It 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 Corazón de Tinieblas (Mexico). There are additional details below about how to make the most of the search function and access the information relevant to your research.

The first phase of development of the database was undertaken with the support of an ESRC Future Research Leaders 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 development of the database is part of The Juridification of Resource Conflicts research project, which is supported by the British Academy's Sustainable Development Programme, 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 is drawn from fieldwork in four Central American countries and Mexico. The database also includes open-source internet research that brings together publicly available information from diverse news outlets, government and non-governmental reports, academic and other expert research sources, and publications from local organisations representing communities directly impacted by resource extraction.

Database Design

The database is designed around three main content 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 ‘law-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 text or documents, such as legislation or written submissions to judicial bodies, which are related to or result from a specific Legal Action. Where possible these documents are accessible to researchers via download from the ‘Legal Artefact’ pages. The ‘Extractive Project’ page compiles general company and background information relating to a specific project, including links to relevant ‘Legal Actions’.

Database Search and Filters

In this second phase of development of the database, the search function has been simplified to enable researchers to locate particular Legal Actions, Legal Artefacts and Extractive Projects more easily, using keywords and a range of filters on the Database Search page. The filters are: Country, Company, Natural resource, Type of Legal Action, Human Rights Violated and Jurisdiction. The Database Search page enables users to carry out free-text word searches. The list of results can then be narrowed down using relevant filters on each side of the page. Alternatively, users can apply filters to the whole collection of data, to select Legal Actions, Legal Artefacts and Extractive Project content 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 particular projects. Another means of accessing information in the database, is to go directly to a list of the eight Extractive Project pages via 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 present phase, company details, natural resource, mining 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 pages on the database to relevant technical or research 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, but not exhaustive, sequence of political and legal events and actions 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 pages in the database.

Political Actions and Reports

It is important to note that ‘Political Action’ and ‘Reports’ 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 apply to a specific project. Rather, they are to provide some contextual information about the types of political actions (particularly by civil society actors and local grassroots movements) that accompany legal actions and often create the necessary political climate for reforms, such as legislative bans on metallic 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, relate 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 are collected from publicly available online sources. Should the authors have any concerns regarding their inclusion, please contact Dr Ainhoa Montoya.


Cite the database as: Montoya, Ainhoa, Rachel Sieder, Yacotzin Bravo Espinosa, Rupert Knox and María C. Pauchulo. 2020. The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil Database. Retrieved from https://ilas.sas.ac.uk/resources/legal-cultures-subsoil-database


While the researchers have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, we welcome feedback on any entries that require updating or correction, and 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 made to Dr Ainhoa Montoya.