Colombia says no to mining

25 municipalities will decide on whether to approve or decline the legal authority of international mining companies

Colombia says no to mining

Leer en Español: Colombia le dice no a la minería

On October 6th, the people of Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander, protested a mining project in the region. They were against Minesa, a multinational mining company from the United Arab Emirates that is planning to extract 9 million ounces of copper and pyrite in the municipalities of California and Suratá over the course of the next 23 years.

The protesters assured that the mine is near Santurban's moor, which supplies drinking water to the capital. The mining project can affect the environment and contaminate the natural resource of more than 30 boroughs in the areas of Santander and Northern Santander.

Minesa experts explained that the mining project is located under the moor’s limits and they assured they will use various methods to extract gold without contaminating the water with cyanide or mercury. They also volunteered to capacitate the artisanal miners so they wouldn't contaminate the environment either.

However, neither the protester nor Bucaramanga's mayor, Rodolfo Hernández, is in favor of the project. Hernández assured that with the mine being under the Santurban's moor, the excavation will affect the mountain and destroy the water supply. The politician has also considered giving money to the region where the mine is located, in the hopes to give the area an economic solution instead of approving the development.

Read also: Colombian town votes against gold minning

Today, Minesa is exploring the region and "conducting technical, financial, and environmental studies" to adequately explode the mine. The National Government and the Environmental Authorities are evaluating if they should give Minesa the approval to start mining.

SU 133 2017 sentence

The disapproval of the mining project, especially by the people from Santander, is not an isolated case. After the SU 133 2017 sentence was ruled by the Constitutional Court, several municipalities are promoting vetoing mining projects, including those that wish to extract crude, in delicate environments of the country. This is all thanks to the sentence that gave towns the power to approve or decline developments through referendums.   

**the SU 133 2017 gave municipalities the power to approve or disapprove a project via referendum***

Cajamarca, Tolima

The first town to disapprove a mining project was Cajamarca in Tolima. Back in March, 97.92% of the voters said no to the "La Colosa" project. The development was part of the multinational mining company Anglo Gold Ashanti. The people of the area were worried that the exploitation of the mine would have negative effects on the environment, including contaminating their drinking water.  

Cumaral, Meta

In June of 2016, 7.475 (97.04%) people vote against the extraction of crude in their territory. The project was being administered by Mansanovar, a company from India and China, and Ecopetrol, a state-owned company.

The future of the mining in Colombia

Other municipalities are planning to hold referendums in order to decide on the future of their own territories. According to El Tiempo, 25 towns will soon decide on mining projects, 16 different locations will vote on the extraction of crude, and 3 municipalities over energy projects.


Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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