Gold prices have surged in recent years. As a result of the ‘investor friendly’ climate promoted by the Colombian government’s ‘democratic security’ policies, multinationals have been awarded mining rights to extensive areas of the country. Many of these areas cover national parks, and lands inhabited by Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant communities, who will be displaced to make way for the mining companies. Not only are the environmental consequences for what is currently one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity devastating; vulnerable communities will lose their livelihoods and food security.
London listed AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, is one of the major mining companies in Colombia. Enriched during the Apartheid era, it was awarded the Greenpeace Public Eye award for being The World’s Most Irresponsible Company, following its deplorable environmental and human rights record in Ghana, a country where it has been operating for many years. AGA has also been linked to paramilitary activity in other areas of Colombia, specifically the South of Bolívar and Cauca.
La Colosa is an AngloGold Ashanti mining project in Cajamarca, Tolima, Colombia, which – unless stopped – will become the largest opencast gold mine in South America. The mine is located within an area of forest reserve with high biodiversity. Cajamarca is an important agricultural hub for the whole country, and is therefore of paramount importance for the food security of Colombians. The use of huge quantities of water in the mining operation means that less water will be available to irrigate crops, or as drinking water for the local population. The ‘lixiviation’ process used to extract gold from the ore employs cyanide, a highly toxic chemical that would inevitably contaminate water sources and destroy aquatic life. The area is characterised by having steep valleys and is prone to seismic and volcanic activity, as well as heavy rainfall and landslides – meaning that accidents such as tailings ponds spillages, as have happened in many such mining projects may occur, with long-term devastating consequences for local communities. In spite of all this, it has been given the go-ahead by the Colombian government.