Tuesday, January 14, 2014


This post is going to look different.  The story is unfortunately a familiar one.

Global capital, this time in the form of huge mining companies, is destroying the lives of the people of Colombia.  They have corrupted local governments, privatized services (which they don't offer much of), and are destroying the environment.  They have been caught drilling deep into an agriculturally critical aquifer and contaminated the local water supply.

There has been resistance including highway and railway lines being blockaded.

Community leaders and human rights defenders are already paying the highest price – their lives – for their opposition to the large-scale corporate mining project.

It's been 4 1/2 years since a report by Mining Watch found that Canadian based  mining companies in Colombia, 

"...control the local politics and civilian economy through intimidation of the locals, that they have been responsible for massive human rights violations and displacements... and that according to representatives of the displaced communities “they had been displaced by armed actors because of interest by some companies to mine for gold”.  Reports are quoted that “indicate that soldiers have told local residents that its operations are designed to protect the interests of international mining companies in the area”.The Public Defender’s office is at risk from the local paramilitaries,the Aguilas Negras, because they state “you are against the multinationals ….and we are there to pave the way for the company’s arrival”. Trade union executives (of FEDEAGROBISMOL) and local activists opposed to the activities of the company have been served death threats by the paramilitaries. 
The report concludes that the mining activity may encourage and strengthen the paramilitaries and that the company may be benefiting from the human rights violations of those who oppose its activities. 

The report informs us that 87% of forced displacements, 82% of human rights violations and 83% of murders of trade union leaders in Colombia have occurred in resource rich locations."

As Mining Watch Canada pointed out last month:

 It is time to recognize that the emperor has no clothes. Large-scale mining is still what it has always been, a business with huge returns for a very small elite, and for home countries such as Canada, based on extracting non-renewable and finite wealth from the earth, primarily in poor host countries. 
The local environmental, social and economic impacts during and after mining are still devastating with more losers than winners, particularly in developing countries and in remote and vulnerable communities in developed countries. These impacts exacerbate poverty in ways not addressed by typical project-level CSR efforts. Nor do the newer “governance initiatives” associated with the Andean Initiative and the CIIEID address the realities of the resource curse as these efforts appear to be primarily aimed at smoothing the way for Canadian companies to gain conflict-free and cheap access to overseas ore bodies.

The following is a bit more personal.

It is from Mi Mundo by way of Upside Down World. 
Southwest Antioquia: Microcosm of Social Conflict in Colombia’s New Gold Rush

Written by James Rodríguez   
On February 2011, an article in Canada’s Business Financial Post declared: “Colombia, whose rich gold deposits were once the
 source of the Spanish Empire’s power, is hot again… Seemingly overnight, its nearly dormant gold-mining industry has stirred to 
life, and the country has become a mecca for junior miners searching for the next big find.” (1)
Today, roughly 90% of the territory in the mountainous department of Antioquia has been licensed primarily for
 metal mining exploration. Despite ongoing peace talks attempting to end a brutal internal armed conflict spanning over 50 years,
 the new gold rush is dangerously fracturing new social divisions in a fragile State. (2)
The new gold rush has arrived seemingly overnight in southwest Antioquia, a traditionally agricultural region that has
 thrived from the production of coffee and livestock for generations.
In the town of Jericó, declared a Heritage Town of Colombia in July 2013, the social tensions are clear: hundreds of
 homes display white flags that read “No to mining”. The town has a growing resistance to the 50,000 hectare gold mining
 license for exploration given in November 2012 to Minera Quebradonda, local subsidiary of South Africa-based AngloGold Ashanti.
Local restaurant owner Nirvana Valencia states: “Above all, we feel attacked because no one has ever asked us if we want 
the mine or not!”
Hair salon owner Mónica Marín, 32, states: “Many of my clients are miners. Sure, I benefit now. But, what about the 
environment? What’s going to happen in the future? The situation is very tense right now as many are starting to support 
the ‘no to mining’ campaign. And those in favor are very narrow minded.”
Father Nabor Suárez, president of Jerico’s History Center, states: “Here in Jericó we follow Monsignor Noel Antonio 
Londoño Buitrago’s stance against mining. There is a long time ecological tradition in southwest Antioquia. We may be poor, 
but this land has always provided for us.”
With an urban population of 7,200, the town of Jericó holds roughly half of the municipality’s total population of 15,000.
Local city councilwoman Marta Cecilia Espinoza, 50, declares: “Personally, I feel the conservation of our water and 
environment is the most important issue. I don’t believe a mining project can be 100% contamination free. We depend on 
agriculture and live relatively tranquil lives. We are worried that violence, prostitution, and other social ills will develop here 
as we have seen in other mining regions. Jericó is a cultural heritage town, so mining is not compatible with its status. 
The townspeople’s opinions are very polarized – the first serious social problem that has affected us even before any mining operations have begun.”
Locals who oppose the industrial project are aware of AngloGold Ashanti’s reputation worldwide. In 2011, Greenpeace awarded
 the mining company its Public Eye Global Award as the world’s worst company in environmental terms “for its contamination 
of land, and the poisoning of people in Ghana… In addition, local residents were occasionally tortured in the company’s guard
 house; some cases resulted in fatalities.” (3)
Frictions between locals and the mining company have already taken place. On September 20, 2013, residents from the
 rural community of Corregimiento Palo Cabildo setup a blockade into the Finca Aurora, disallowing AngoGold Ashanti
 vehicles from entering. Locals demanded the company to halt operations in this area of the mountainside where water 
springs provide water for the valleys below. The peaceful protest was quickly dispersed, but it has signaled a turning point in
 the locals’ relationship with the mining company.
Hernando García, 63, resident of Corregimiento Palo Cabildo, states: “It is amazing how quickly things have changed in a 
year since the mining company arrived. This year no one wanted to work in the coffee fields unless it was for the same salary 
as the mine is paying its manual labor employees. Numerous crops have been lost, as we can’t find anyone to harvest them.
 No authority or media outlet has paid attention to us, so we decided to carry out the peaceful blockade into Minera Quebradona’s
 installations last September.”
Porfirio Garcés, 74, coffee producer and resident of Corregimiento Palo Cabildo, states: “The mining company fooled us. 
There is a serious social division today due to this mine. This is truly a life or death issue. We want to keep our culture based 
on coffee production, where honesty reigns. We do not want a mining culture based on destruction.”
Twenty kilometers west, in the municipality of Ciudad Bolivar, locals have carried out protest marches and painted numerous 
anti-mining murals throughout the municipality. Diego Tobón, president of the Friends of the Arboleda Environmental 
Corporation (Corporación Ambiental Amigos de la Arboleda, COAMAR, in Spanish), states: “Ciudad Bolivar is a farming 
municipality and [the government] wants to impose a mining culture that nobody here wants.” (4)
One of the main concerns in Ciudad Bolivar involves a mining license issued on the protected area of Farallones del Citará,
 a páramo ecosystem and major water source. Additionally, an Emberá Chamí indigenous community’s territory has also
 been included in the license polygon without previous consent – a direct violation of Colombia’s ratification of the International
 Labor Organization’s Convention 169.
Pedro Manuel Gonzalez Tamaníz, 36, an Emberá-Chamí man from the Indigenous Community of Hermenegildo Chakiama,
 on the slopes of Farallones del Citará, states: “In our culture, development means more that just money, but a life plan. 
This plan includes a heritage for our future generations, what we leave for them. This place is full of important medicinal
 plants that our jaibaná (spiritual healers) can’t find anywhere else. We want to make sure our children benefit from it as well.
 Mining will only bring desolation and sadness.” Waterfalls are a key element in Emberá culture, as they are believed to be
 homes for both positive and negative spirits that help bring balance to the world.
Roughly twenty kilometers south of Jericó and Ciudad Bolivar, the Emberá-Chamí Indigenous Community of Cristianía-Karmata 
Rua, within the municipality of Jardín, has been on high alert since an unauthorized incursion into their autonomous territory 
by geologists from the former National Institute for Geological Mining Research (INGEOMINAS) placed the mining problematic 
on the national spotlight. On September 26, 2012, Karmata Rua’s indigenous guard, a legal autonomous security force 
recognized by the Colombian government, captured INGEOMINAS geologist Daniel Prieto.
Daniel Prieto was retained for three days in Karmata Rua, as local leaders demanded an “explanation for his presence
 in their ancestral indigenous territory.” Locals are concerned segments of Karmata Rua’s territory have been included 
[without consent] in a hydroelectric project and/or a mining license. (5)
Gilberto Tascón, 52, carries out a cultural radio program from the local Chamí Estereo station in Karmata Rua. Gilberto
 founded the radio station in 1997, was governor of Karmata Rua, and head of the National Indigenous Organization of 
Colombia (ONIC) from 1982 to 1986. He states: “In the late 1970s, the community became organized not only for the sole
 purpose of legalizing our territory, but also for education, health, women’s rights, and our culture – the defense of our
 language. Mining is a threat to all these. Hence, no to mining, yes to the defense of our territory.”
Local teacher Gladys Yagarí sings at the community’s primary school during a cultural event.
Alicia Tamanís, 60, Emberá Chamí woman and coffee grower, works on her harvest. The town of Andes can be seen
 in the background.
María Olga Panchí, 58, former governess of the Karmata Rua Indigenous Reserve from 1986 to 1987, was the first
 indigenous governess in Antioquia. She declares: “Just as we organized ourselves to recover our territory in the late 
1970s, we must do so now to protect our territory. If we allow the miners to come in, where will we grow our food? 
Where will we go? We cannot allow this plunder. We have seen in other mining communities how the industry changes
 the culture. It brings drugs, prostitution. We need to cling to our culture with our teeth and nails.”
María Ofelia Carubia, 87, arranges some of the local jewelry and handicrafts she makes.
Rosa Yagarí, 65, collects her coffee harvest. With regards to mining licenses given by the Colombian government to foreign 
companies without previous consultation to the local population, Rosa states: “This is not a jungle, but an Indigenous Reservation. 
We must fight for our territory or else our children will be left without land. The foreigner who comes will find trouble. 
We do not mess with the local landlords either, so we want to be respected. I hope they don’t come and that the State respects
 our sovereignty.”
Argemio Baquiaza, 60, local jaibaná performs a healing session. The Jaibaná are equivalent to shamans or spiritual 
healers who control the flow of spirits according to the Emberá culture.
Amanda González Yagarí, 46, coffee producer and current governess of the Karmata Rua Indigenous Reserve, declares 

as she rakes her coffee harvest: “We are against metal mining because we have seen the deterioration of other communities at 
the hands of this industry. We must protect our territory in order to maintain our unity and culture. We do not want the
 decomposition of our family or social structures.”
As she works on her vegetable garden, Inéz Yagarí states: “We are very worried about mining here. If they take our
 lands, where will we go?”
1. “Colombia a ‘new frontier’ for gold miners.” The Business Financial Post. February 1, 2011.
(Accessed on Wednesday January 8, 2014).
2. Despierta Jericó. Número 1 – Febrero 15 de 2013.
d/0ByHKPUVjxcvdVk1tVUI5SEVvbWs/edit (Accessed on Wednesday January 8, 2014).
3. Greenpeace. “South African Company ‘Wins’ Public Eye Award. Congratulations to AngloGold/Ashanti!” 
Feature story – January 31, 2011. http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/News/news/
South-African-Corp-Wins-Public-Eye-Award/(Accessed on Wednesday January 8, 2014).
4. “Ciudad Bolívar marcha contra la minería.” El Colombiano. 30 de mayo de 2013.
/m.elcolombiano.com/article/153115 (Accessed on Wednesday January 8, 2014).
5. Martínez Arango, Rodrigo. “Comunidad indígena de Jardín retiene a geólogo de Ingeominas.
” El Colombiano. 27 de septiembre de 2012.http://www.elcolombiano.com/BancoConocimiento/C/
(Accessed on Wednesday January 8, 2014).

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