Ibagué, 11 May 2013
As you evaluate the development of your mining projects in Colombia, we consider it to be important that, in your analysis, you consider aspects that pertain to an environmental, social and human reality, which most likely will not reach you through those who are managing these projects in our country.
We, the undersigned, are organizations representing many individuals particularly affected by the La Colosa project (located in the municipality of Cajamarca, Tolima). We are also seriously concerned about a government policy that, in partnership with you, plans to carry out large-scale open-pit mining in our region and throughout the Colombian territory.
Since the inception of this government policy, eight years ago, large sectors of civil society have mobilised, to vehemently reject large-scale mining as a development model for our country. This sentiment has become stronger as the impacts of mining, and of the thirst for gold, have become clearer to us. We are highly disturbed about the prospect of a breakdown of social order, peace, territorial sovereignty and equality. We have three central points in our message to you:
1. Firstly, our civil movements have ethical issues that prevent us from accepting the business of large-scale open-pit mining. Our stance is based on the following (and other) points:
• Affecting large areas of countries like ours, which currently cushion the impact of global warming, and maintain production of oxygen, water and biodiversity for our country as well as the rest of the world, should be seen as a crime against humanity. This is because it constitutes an assault, at a time of extreme fragility, on planetary life.
• The greatest wealth of our country is its biodiversity and water that feeds its green and beautiful territory. It is a perennial wealth, and a heritage that we must protect to leave our children. No money can buy it, and it is not legitimate to exchange it for transient royalties. This is even more so, given the cost and irreparable consequences of contamination to fragile ecosystems and the vulnerable lives of the people who live there.
• The mining business is the greatest threat to territorial displacement and expropriation of our farmers, indigenous and vulnerable minorities. Uprooting them from their livelihoods, their surroundings, their history, their activities and their culture is a cruel and unjustifiable abuse, especially given that they are very vulnerable. The consequences cannot be any other than the increase in numbers of dispossessed in urban centres, and the deterioration of family and community values.
• Large-scale mining threatens the sovereignty of our territory: large swathes of which are being handed over by means of mining concessions to multinationals. The current 20,000 concessions, covering about 22 million hectares, account for nearly a quarter of Colombian territory.
2. There is a wealth of academic and technical work, written by experts in universities and State entities, who question the economic and environmental viability of mining. This has given rise to an increasingly critical view of the issue, reaching ever-broader sections of society. We transcribe some excepts from the report Mining in Colombia published by the Colombian Comptroller (Contraloría) in May 2013, which provides some stark warnings:
• “There are conflicts around the extractive mining model that compromise individual and collective rights enshrined in the Constitution […] This highlights an absence of sufficient and rigorous monitoring by the State in relation to the severity of these impacts.”
• “[…] decisions relating to mining in Colombia must be preceded by the identification of impacts on communities where the conflict is generated or persists […]”
• “The humanitarian impacts, which relate to human rights violations or breaches of International Humanitarian Law, in areas where mining is taking place, can no longer be considered to be ‘collateral damage’ that is unrelated to mining activity, but rather as ‘risks’ that [are linked to] mining [operations].”
3. Journalists and regulators have made serious allegations that indicate violations of Colombian law by AngloGold Ashanti, as well as dubious practices to gain support from officials, authorities and communities. We present some of the findings that question the transparency of AngloGold Ashanti in Colombia, and have led many Colombians to wish that the company leave the country:
• An investigation carried out by Maria Teresa Ronderos, consulting editor of the Semana magazine, makes references to the winning over of influences to obtain mining concessions: “[…] two officials who for years have worked in Ingeominas [formerly the entity responsible for awarding mining concessions in Colombia] perceived an unacceptable closeness between some directors and the multinational AngloGold Ashanti. Sure enough, one in every five hectares awarded as mining concessions ended up in their hands.”
• The magazine Dinero, poses the following questions about AngloGold Ashanti’s business practices: Why have they fragmented their mining concessions? Why does it make extensive use of ‘satellite companies’ within its organizational structure? The facts and analysis provided by the article highlight concerns about AngloGold Ashanti’s dominance in Colombia, and its attempts to seemingly evade fiscal obligations.
• A recent investigation by the Comptroller (Contraloría) reports 12 cases of tax evasion relating to AngloGold Ashanti associated with the payment of surface rent for its mining concessions, amounting to 3.8 million US Dollars.
• In recent weeks the village of Doima has been in the national news due to the actions of its inhabitants in rejection of AGA’s plans to construct its metallurgical plant and tailings storage facility for the La Colosa project. The community has organized blockades to prevent vehicles and employees of the company entering the area. Cortolima, the regional environmental authority, has also suspended the work that AGA was doing in the area due to lack of necessary permits. On 23 April 2013 the citizen mobilisations were met with repressive actions carried out by the riot police who, working in support of AGA, acted aggressively towards the inhabitants of the region.
• AGA has shown a defiant arrogance against regulations, institutions and individuals who oppose their plans. One such strategy is to describe small farmers who are involved in peacefully opposing the project as guerrillas [an accusation that, in Colombia, is tantamount to accusing them of being terrorists]. For example, this was apparent in a message that Ivan Malaver sent to Rafael Herz, when he was making reference to representatives of the Anaime community at a public meeting. This was reported by the regional newspaper El Nuevo Dia, on 24 February 2013, who published a photograph of a message received on Rafael Herz’s telephone. Another strategy employed by the company is to lodge lawsuits to intimidate entities who are carrying out their legal duty to enforce the law. Such is the case, for example, with the lawsuit against Cortolima, an entity whose role is to ensure compliance with environmental legislation. Cortolima issued Resolution 433 of March 2013 to suspend work being carried out by AGA in rural area of Piedras. The governor of Tolima has expressed his disapproval of AGA’s actions, which only serve to offend regional authorities, and also public opinion in general.
• The new delineation of the páramo [a high mountain ecosystem unique to the northern Andes which is invaluable for the well-being of many Colombians due to its water production capability], carried out by the Humboldt Institute, indicates that 50 hectares of the La Colosa project, of a total of 515 hectares, are located in the páramo zone. Apart from constituting a serious breach of environmental laws, it is evidence of an imminent impact to an ecosystem that guarantees the water supply to 70% of the inhabitants of the region.
• It has become apparent that AGA seeks additional permits that will enable it to expand its exploration activities for La Colosa in the Central Forest Reserve in Cajamarca. If these permits are granted, this would be an example of AGA’s willingness to circumvent the legal protection of such areas, as recently warned by the Colombian Comptroller: “The regulations established for environmental conservation of protected areas are not being followed […] these protected areas are losing their protected status for the subsequent development of mining and other activities, which is not consistent with being for the common good […] the National Government, led by the Ministry of the Environment, should reconsider whether removing a protected status should be possible […] and not to allow activities which will result in deterioration of the [natural] assets to be protected”.
• Manuel Rodriguez, a researcher at the University of the Andes, states “[…] the government and mining industry seem to be unaware of the complexities of the Andean highlands and valleys of Colombia, where the bulk of mining concessions […] are concentrated. It is one of the world’s most vulnerable [regions] to climate change, as evidenced by recent widespread floods, and has a high population density in much of its territory, as well as hosting some of the greatest and most fragile wealth in terms of biodiversity and water in the planet. “
As shareholders, we hope that your corporate and social responsibility, and the values that you uphold regarding your respect towards other countries, and the protection of the environment as a planetary asset, leads you to make decisions that do not harm our people or our territory. Our road to peace has been difficult and painful. We do not want your investments and business to be an additional factor of injustice, dispossession and violence.
COMITE AMBIENTAL EN DEFENSA DE LA VIDA (Ibagué)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DEL SUR DEL TOLIMA (Saldaña and Ataco, Tolima)
ASOCIACION DE CABILDOS INDIGENAS DEL TOLIMA (Natagaima, Tolima)
ASOCIACION PARA EL FUTURO CON MANOS DE MUJER “ASFUMUJER” (Natagaima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DE DOIMA-PIEDRAS (Tolima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL Y CAMPESINO DE CAJAMARCA (Tolima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DEL LIBANO (Tolima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DE COELLO (Tolima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DE ROVIRA (Tolima)
COMITE AMBIENTAL DE MURILLO (Tolima)
CORPORACION CONCIENCIA CAMPESINA (Cajamarca,Tolima)
ASOCIACION DE PRODUCTORES AGROECOLOGICOS DEL CAÑON DEL RIO ANAIME – “APACRA” (Cajamarca, Tolima)
COMITE SOCIO AMBIENTAL BOGOTA – Campaña de solidaridad con las luchas del Tolima (Bogotá D.C.)
COLECTIVO DE ANALISIS POLITICO TERRITORIAL (Bogotá D.C)
AGENCIA DE MEDIOS TECHOTIBA (Bogotá D.C.)
CORPORACION GRUPO SEMILLAS (Bogotá D.C.)
COLECTIVO UNIVERSITARIO ALTERNATIVA (Universidad del Tolima)
CONCIENCIA AMBIENTAL (Ibagué, Tolima)
SEMILLAS DE AGUA (Cajamarca, Tolima)
CORPORACION DE ENTIDADES CULTURALES DEL TOLIMA – CORCULTURA (Ibagué, Tolima)
CORPORACION ECOVILLA LA MARTINICA “ECOMARTINICA” (Ibagué, Tolima)
ASOCIACION AGROTURISTICA POR EL CAÑON DEL RIO ANAIME “AGROTUR (Cajamarca,Tolima)
ACUEDUCTOS DE ANAIME (Anaime, Cajamarca, Tolima)
FUNDACION VIDA LIBRE (Cajamarca, Tolima)
UNION DE CAMPESINOS DE LA VEREDA LA BOLIVAR “UCAT” (Cajamarca, Tolima)
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL DE LA VEREDA RODANO (Cajamarca, Tolima)
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL DE LA VEREDA RODANO (Cajamarca, Tolima)
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL DE LA VEREDA PUENTE HIERRO (Cajamarca, Tolima)
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL DE LA VEREDA EL AGUILA (Cajamarca, Tolima)
JUNTA DE ACCION COMUNAL DE LA VEREDA EL CAJON (Cajamarca, Tolima)
RESERVA NATURAL AGUA FRIA (Ibagué,Tolima)
CORPORACION PARA LA DEFENSA Y PROMOCION DE LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS “REINICIAR”-REGIONAL (Tolima)
ASOCIACION NACIONAL DE USUARIOS CAMPESINOS “ANUC” (Tolima)
ASOCIACION NACIONAL DE USUARIOS CAMPESINOS “ANUC IBAGUE” (Ibagué, Tolima)
CORPORACION AMBIENTAL REGIONAL ESPELETIA (Murillo, Tolima)
REVISTA SALMON URBANO (Universidad el Tolima)
FUNDACION COMITE DE SOLIDARIDAD CON LOS PRESOS POLITICOS (Ibagué, Tolima)
COLECTIVO CONGRESO DE LOS PUEBLOS (Made up of 23 organisations)
CORPORACION DE ESCRITORES DEL TOLIMA
Translated into English by Colombia Solidarity Campaign