Mines & Territory, April 2019

Sam Packet | Colombia, Colombia, Mining, Mines&Territory, Mines&Territory, Mining

MONTHLY ONLINE REVIEW ON EXTRACTIVIST ISSUES IN COLOMBIA

ISSUE 04
April 2019

Collection, summary and edition by Sam Packet, Karlijn Van den Broeck and Laura García

Download Mines & Territory, April 2019 here.

MINES & TERRITORY

April 2019

News comes and goes. With social media as the main outlet for civil society organizations in Colombia to get their stories heard, a story can be famous for a day after which it disappears in the mass information. Mines & Territory aims to register and share these stories for longer than just a viral thread. Mines & Territory collects the most remarkable events that have occurred in the past month regarding extractivist matters in Colombia and summarizes them in English and in Spanish so that the information is accessible to anyone interested and raises awareness internationally to the current eco-socio realities in Colombia.

Controversial video reveals Minesa’s strategy to avoid the rejection of its mine in Santurbán

The leaked video shows the president of the company Minesa, Santiago Urdinola. Minesa is an Arab company that earlier this year handed in an Environmental Impact Study to the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA), with the purpose of extracting about nine million ounces of pyrite and copper in the area of Santurbán.

Urdinola exposes in a private meeting the strategy to take forward the environmental license. “If I have the world on fire, but in Bogotá they feel that we are well, then we are fine. If the decision makers feel calm, despite that we’re having a daily march here (…), it works for us “, he says.

The president continues saying that the indicated way to minimize the contradictory voices to the mine is by developing a narrative, a stereotype that represents the protesters as opposition activists, linked to the political movements of Senator Gustavo Petro (former opposition presidential candidate), the Green Party, the Democratic Pole and some elites of Bucaramanga, who would be looking through these demonstrations to overthrow the Government of President Iván Duque. “If they feel that it’s all about Petro marching to overthrow Duque’s government, it works for us (…) The question is how do we make our stakeholders feel calm”, is what’s heard in the video.

According to Urdinola, one of the keys is to present the most effective information to the ministers in charge. To talk, for example, about renewable energies with the Minister of Mines and Energy, María Fernanda Suárez.

Urdinola seems to be disturbed by the frequent news in which Minesa does not seem to be standing well. “There’s going to be a lot of media pressure here. The media likes the history of the angry community, not the story of those we have helped, of the children who’re finally going to school and have access to drinking water thanks to Minesa. The story is one of the community that feels they are going to be resettled. There are about 50 families we’ll have to take out of their territory – where they have lived for over 100 years – because they’re living in the center of the project. That is the media story; which will explode”, he warns.

The video, which lasts almost nine minutes, fell very badly among those who are part of the Committee for the Defense of the Páramo de Santurbán, which for several years has called marches to protest the mining exploitation in the territory.

“We strongly reject the statements made in the video. It is a strategy against the citizens who we had to mobilize 9 years ago to reject the mega-mining in Santurbán. It is a strategy to deceive Bucaramanga, Bogotá and the officials who are making the decisions. It is putting a mantle of doubt in this process of citizen resistance”, says Mayerly Lopez, one of the spokespersons of the Committee.

She points out that, if ANLA approves the environmental license of this project, the water supply of 2.5 million people will be put at risk. “We trust that the ANLA will make a serious and rigorous process. We do not trust the company, and even less after this video”, she said, while revealing that on May 10th they will hold a new march to oppose the Minesa project.


Sources: CONTAGIORADIO ‘Filtran video que evidencia campaña de estigmatización de Minesa contra ambientalistas’; EL ESPECTADOR ‘Polémico video revela estrategia de Minesa para evitar el rechazo de su minería en Santurbán’.

 

Camera approved the construction of one of Latin America’s biggest port in Tribugá, Chocó

The sections of the National Development Plan that give the constructing of the port a green light were approved yesterday by the Legislative. The decision, although still pending Senate approval, generates worries for communities and experts. It’s estimated that 1,000 hectares of mangrove in the Pacific will be destroyed with this intervention.

The communities of Tribugá, one of the nine corregimientos of Nuquí (Chocó), do not want the port. Its position makes sense: although an investment on this scale promises jobs, development and roads for a region that needs it, the construction of this big port involves going over a territory protected by them: the Regional District of Management – Cabo Corrientes, an ecosystem that not only the communities depend upon thanks to artisanal fishing, the use of mangroves and ecotourism, but where around 8 species of mangroves flourish and where turtles pianguas and small mollusks nest on 971 hectares of beaches, all ensuring the certainty of food in the area.

If approved by the Senate, a port of docks up to 3,600 meters in length would be built, with depths between 15 and 20 meters and a capacity to receive ships of up to 200,000 tons. And all of that in the middle of this natural territory. The port is estimated to be larger and bigger than the Port of Buenaventura and one of the most massive ones in Latin America.


Source: EL ESPECTADOR ‘Cámara aprobó la construcción del Puerto de Tribugá en Chocó’

 

Inhabitants of Taganga, in Magdalena, denounce the construction of a new port in their bay

Inhabitants of Taganga, in Magdalena, denounce that the Daabon Liquid Bulk Terminal Company (Terlica) is advancing its third modification of the environmental license granted for the construction of a port in the bay, even though the communities mobilized against the project because of the social, economic and environmental effects it would cause.

In 2008, the rupture of a valve at the Terlica facilities in Taganga caused a spill of crude palm oil to the Bay of Playa Grande, affecting thousands of corals and other marine organisms. Despite this historial account and the fact that the company has not yet finished to compensate the damages, the environmental authorities have already approved the first two modifications to the environmental license.

The locals fear that the environmental emergency caused by Terlica in 2008 might happen again, damaging the environment and the way of living of the 6,000 inhabitants of the municipality who depend on fishing and tourism. In addition, evidence points out that an accident at the wharf could cause more serious damage since it’s intended to transport palm oil, chemical derivatives and hydrocarbons through this new port.

Senator Antonio Sanguino of the Green Alliance argues that the environmental license approved by the ANLA is not legitimized. It did not have any consent neither was the project socialized with the communities that inhabit the territory. Besides that, several people involved assume acts of favoring policy in the granting of the licenses and concessions.

“We say no to the Port of the Americas because it would be located within the “linea negra”, which is a theological zone of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada, so it requires, first of all, at least a prior consultation with the indigenous community,” he said.


Sources: CONTAGIORADIO ‘”¡No queremos muelle!”: el grito de los habitantes de Taganga’; REVISTA7 ‘Nuevo Puerto en Taganga ¿en veremos?’

 

What did the social leaders who installed the ‘humanitarian shelter’ in Bogotá accomplish?

For nearly a week about 2,000 leaders from across the country gathered in the capital to make a call to the National Government and the international community for the lack of security guarantees in their territories. They were in Congress, in several embassies, they demonstrated and carried out important commitments.

“It’s just unthinkable that we are at the discretion of a president who thinks more about Venezuela than about Colombia (…) While he calls for peace in Venezuela, right here in Colombia leaders get assassinated, threatened, and taken out of their lands”, says senator Aída Avella in her speech to thousands of social leaders who arrived in Bogotá to combat what they consider the neglect of the government of Iván Duque to the violent wave against human rights defenders in the country.

The spokesmen of the shelter indicate that the general goal of the humanitarian shelter and the sensibilization of the public opinion in the big cities about the crisis on the countryside, was reached. They also managed to sensitize the embassies, to make them aware of the situation, and they assumed the commitment to talk with the National Government so that the topic of protecting social leaders can be better addressed”, explains Alejandra Llano of the ‘National Indigenous Organization of Colombia’ (ONIC). Apart from that, Ricardo Arias, Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Home Affairs, affirmed publicly that the National Guarantees Roundtable, a space of direct dialogue between social organizations and several entities of the National Government – which was suspended since the arrival of Iván Duque to the Presidency – would be reactivated soon.

However, they are left with lots of questions regarding the responses of the Government, particularly by the Attorney General’s Office. A main issue is the sample of results in the investigations on the armed structures in charge of executing the murders of social leaders, about which they have asked for explanations without success. Supposedly, the findings in this regard are minimal…


Source: EL ESPECTADOR ‘¿Qué lograron los líderes sociales que instalaron el refugio humanitario en Bogotá?’

 

Prosecution requests precautionary measures for environmental damage of Hidroituango

It is a request based upon the work developed by a team of 9 experts, engineers, biologists and ecologists who, supported by the Judicial Police, were in Hidroituango investigating possible environmental damage.

Among the conclusions is the finding of risks for water springs, fauna, flora and the life of the inhabitants. A first risk is the arrival of ‘el buchón’, explains Néstor Humberto Martínez, the Prosecutor. It is an invasive plant that already expanded among 8.5 kilometers due to the strong winds. The presence of this plant causes un unsmooth running of the water current and a reduction of the self-regulating processes of the ecosystems, which leads to the disappearance of animals that inhabit the river.

A second measure is related to an abandoned asphalt fabric on the San Andrés river, explained the Prosecutor. At the moment there are residues that fall into the water, which from the San Andrés river pass to the Cauca and finally to the Magdalena, diminishing the quality of water. This asphalt plant had been used by Hidroituango, but it would not have been closed properly. In addition, Martínez points out: “children take asphalt waste to play as if it were plasticine, although these residues, like pitch, have components with carcinogenic characteristics.”

A third measure has to do with the “El Higuerón” waste dump. The dump is located on a slope that overlooks the Cauca River and the rocks now threaten to detach. Experts found cracks up to 60 meters deep. This generates a great danger of falling into the river or collapsing on the road underneath, through which vehicles and pedestrians pass. Therefore, the researchers requested the immediate and urgent stabilization of the slopes and a technical closure of the dump.

Finally, the Office of the Prosecutor requested measures to intervene into the food chain instability in the area. The Hidroituango dam is preventing the downstream passage of sediments and nutrients necessary for the optimal life of the fauna in and around the river. “The sediments and nutrients cannot overcome the barrier of the dam and get stuck there,” explained the head of the accusing entity. Apparently, this his has not only an effect on the diversity and biological richness in the river. The experts found also deregulations in the fish populations regarding quality, size, reproduction and weight..


Source: EL TIEMPO ‘Fiscalía pide medidas cautelares por daños ambientales de Hidroituango’

 

5th meeting of the National Environmental Movement in San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander

Associations, collectives and environmental committees from all over the country met on April 5, 6 and 7 in San Vicente de Chucurí in Santander for the 5th meeting of the National Environmental Movement of Colombia. The meeting resulted in three days full of exchanges of experiences, sensibilization strategies and interactive workshops among the environmentalists who were present.

The event closed on Sunday afternoon with the first environmental march in the municipality of San Vicente; “Where in the year 2017, the mayor of the municipality was pressured by mining companies to refuse the call for a citizen consultation that had already been legitimately demanded by the inhabitants and endorsed by the administrative court of Santander”, according to the final statement, which eternalized the meeting.

The final declaration of the meeting can be read here.


Source: MOVIMIENTO NACIONAL AMBIENTAL ‘Declaración del V Encuentro del Movimiento Nacional Ambiental San Vicente de Chucurí, Santander’.

 

Local leaders and social organizations in Jericó show their outrage over ‘Public Debate

Jericó banned mining by municipal agreement, but the debate about the convenience of this industry in the small municipality with a vocation on coffee farming is still open, as the multinational AngloGold Ashanti has his eyes set on its land, in which it sees great potential.

On April 12th, there was a public debate held in the municipality of Jericó, convened by the Democratic Center of Colombia. This audience raised within its purposes a dialogue between several actors to address issues on “environment and sustainable development in southwest Antioquia” and promoted a follow-up commission to the “mining situation, the social aspect and the planning of the Territory.” In the audience the spokesmen of several environmental organizations, experts in geology, environmental engineering and law, employees of AngloGold Ashanti, and delegates from the departmental and national governments, signed present.

The call to this hearing surprised several local leaders and social organizations in the region because the purposes and scope of this initiative are not yet very clear. It is important to keep in mind that its call and implementation was developed in a strange and confusing context that was characterized by:

  • The call of the ‘Democratic Center’ to the “public hearing”.
  • Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s Twitter message about his opposition to mining projects in the southwest.
  • The presence of Mario Uribe in the audience.
  • The perception of some media outlets considering that “Uribismo recharges anti-mining agents in the Southwest.”
  • The failure to appreciate the set-up of the event by social and environmental organizations

The protagonist role assumed by the Democratic Center in this “public hearing” is evident, but it is also contradictory since the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez granted around 11,000 mining titles and left another 7,000 to be legalized by his successors. It’s also worth to mention the closeness that Senator Uribe had with transnational mining companies. Today, in the National Development Plan, the government of Iván Duque deepens the extractive model in the Colombian territory.

Valuing the above, the conclusions of the event were the result of a consensus among the parties that benefit from the mine, which cannot be confused with a process of agreement between the actors in conflict. Anyway, the debate over the legality of mining and the possible exploitation of copper in Jericó will be transferred to the Congress of the Republic. That’s what was announced by some of the members of the House of Representatives.

At the hearing, the communities’ rejection of the presence of the AngloGold Ashanti multinational was evident, a rejection that has been manifested in many ways through mobilizations, sit-ins, crossings, vigils, municipal agreements, popular mandates, life plans and other mechanisms.

Watch the documentary made by citizens of Jericó where they share their point of view regarding the mining issue here.


Sources: CINTURÓN OCCIDENTAL AMBIENTAL ‘Sobre la “Audiencia Pública” en Jericó’ ; EL COLOMBIANO ‘Comisión del Congreso hará seguimiento a minería en Jericó’.

 

President Duque did not have the courage to listen to the mingueros and mingueras of the Colombian southwest. The Minga sets an appointment for a new meeting in May.

For more context information, we recommend you to read the Mines&Territory – March edition.

The indigenous minga, after 26 days of blockades on the Pan-American Highway in the municipalities of Cauca and Nariño, came to an end on April 5th. The government and the miners had reached an economic agreement of $ 843,000 million. One of the conditions of the agreement was a public dialogue between the mingueros and the President of the Republic, Iván Duque.

However, after many delays and pretexts, although Iván Duque reached the municipality of Caldono, he did not have the courage to listen to the mingueros and mingueras. The arguments of the presidential fleet were “concerns about the security of the President”. Duque asked if the meeting could be held in the cultural house of Caldono behind closed doors, only with the most important leaders. But they did not accept that proposal.

“He lacked honor to his word and disrespected the mingueros and mingueras by not listening to them. This attitude clearly shows his lack of capacity and autonomy to exercise its role as leader of the country, “accuses the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, the main entity that mobilized the Minga in the first place.

Although the indigenous people felt that they were being mistreated, they were willing to adapt to the circumstances if the president spoke in the main park. What interested them the most was to debate with Duque about land, peace, the National Development Plan and the rights of the ethnic communities in Colombia.

In addition to this, for the Minga it was essential that Duque signed the agreements they had reached, which would have given a legal perspective to the 843,000 million pesos which Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez had committed to be assigned in education, health and farming projects in Cauca and Nariño.

“The Minga is an initiative of indigenous, peasant, afro-descendant and other social organizations in the country. There are no terrorists neither criminals present here, you find only worthy people hoping for a dialogue on issues that concern them. This Minga left 88 comrades wounded, nine dead, including Deiner Ceferino Yunda Camayo, a young minguero who was killed by ESMAD bullets that hit him in the chest. The Minga of the Southwest continues and is increasingly strengthened from different parts of the territory, “says the CRIC on its website.

A new appointment

Within the framework of the National strike, the territorial authorities along with more than 4,500 inhabitants mobilized in Popayán, Cali, Bogotá, Medellín, Manizales and Neiva to demonstrate against the murder and persecution of social leaders, the stigmatization and prosecution of demonstrators and aggressions by the public forces, among others.

On April 24th, the CRIC, strengthened by the support of the indigenous organizations of Huila, Caldas and Valle, issued a letter of invitation to President Iván Duque for a next appointment on May 20th at the University facilities of the Intercultural Autonomous University of Popayán, in the Cauca. The discussion that would take place in this meeting would logically handle about the guarantee of economic, social, cultural and organizational rights of indigenous, peasant and Afro communities that “are threatened by the legislative agenda of the Congress that ignores them”.

“It is worth considering that the communities are in permanent assembly and that the Minga maintains the importance of a dialogue between you, as president of the Republic, and the indigenous authorities and social organizations. We hope to have your willingness this time to dialogue with the Colombians from the periphery of the country, “reads the document.

The extinction of the indigenous

Jesus Olivero Verbel, Vice-Rector of Research at the University of Cartagena, gives us his point of view on the indigenous protest and the violation of this minority in his column in the newspaper ‘El Universal’.

“What happens in Cauca is a specific portrait of the indigenous problem in the whole country. This population, extremely vulnerable, is dying out at the point because of violence, disappearances, and displacement, a representation that is shown with different nuances in all corners of the country.

In La Guajira children die of hunger, they have lost the territories that are now huge hollows of the size of cities; in the Sierra Nevada they put hotels on their sacred places and they continuously chew on them with their commitments; in Chocó and Guainía mining destroys their rivers making an end to the jungle and the fish they eat; and in the Amazon, the mercury of the mining industry poisons them. Members of the community of Taraira, in the National Park of Yaigojé Apaporis, contain the highest concentrations of this toxic metal in Latin America.

It is sad to notice that while our true ancestors claimed their territory, we give half of the Cesar department to foreigners to leave us a lunar crater where nothing can be sown in thousands of years. In this country, the rights of our indigenous people and, in general, of minorities have been violated, and we have not saved the historical memory of these atrocious happenings. The situation in Cauca must be reconsidered, the indigenous people could adapt their protest in a sense not to suffocate communities outside the conflict, and the Government could commit to finally listen to them in. That way, nobody would lose.”


Sources: CRIC ‘Presidente Duque no tuvo la capacidad de escuchar a los mingueros y mingueras del suroccidente Colombiano’; SEMANA ‘Duque está en Caldono pero no se ha puesto de acuerdo con la minga para dialogar’; EL ESPECTADOR ‘Minga le pone nueva cita al presidente Iván Duque para retomar los diálogos’; EL UNIVERSAL ‘La extinción de los indígenas’.

 

Protesters reject policies of Duque in national strike of Colombia

The national mobilization was the first strike that President Iván Duque has faced since taking office on August 7th last year. The discontent over the policies contained in the National Development Plan (PND), as well as the growing violence against social leaders and the stigmatization of indigenous peoples are the main causes that triggered the strike that took place on April 25th in the main cities of Colombia.

Various social movements, trade unions, student groups, peasant and indigenous organizations and other entities united in one voice, took to the streets to reject the concentrated economic and social policies of President Iván Duque.

The unions also showed their opposition to the labor reform that is announced in the development plan, because it would eliminate the labor contract as it is currently contemplated in Colombian laws, as well as it would affect the minimum wage by the implementation of the hourly hiring.

The group of protesters expressed their support for the social Minga, a movement that seeks the recognition of the rights of indigenous and peasant communities. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), which for almost a month blocked the southwest of the country in a protest to demand more attention from the Government, mobilized in Popayán, capital of the department of Cauca, for “the defense of life, the territory, democracy, justice and peace.”

Another reason for the protests throughout the country were the demands of the education sector that pointed out the failure of earlier educational agreements reached, and also denounced the restrictive nature of the PND which has an impact on the principles of academic freedom and school autonomy, as well as the fact that it tends to privatize the education in Colombia, warned the National Union of Higher Education (UNEES).

The pensioners said they were present at the national strike because the government’s supposed development plan includes a “simulated reform” to the pension system that holds back in the protection of retired people.


Source: TELESURTV ‘Rechazan políticas de Duque en paro nacional de Colombia’

 

Contraloría warns that Colombia is not ready to fracking

Contraloría, the national entity of examination, ensures that fracking in the country is characterized by a lack of technical studies, legal security and institutional strength. They point out that implementing fracking at this time could be catastrophic and irreversible due to the high social and environmental impacts that it would generate.

This technology, which was started to be used in the United States in 1999, originates in hydraulic fracturing, which involves the injection, at very high pressure, of huge amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals, which generates microcracks in the rocks to allow oil – or gas – to rise to the surface.

In a vehement way, former Comptroller Edgardo Maya Villazón requested the National Government in August last year, before the end of his term, a moratorium on the application of fracking, considering that the country did not have the institutional strength neither the necessary studies to implement it. Seven months later, this initiative regains strength, after the publication of a study, consisting of 202 pages, in which Controlaría notes that the State is not prepared to establish this technique of extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons.

The report warns, among other things, about the possible effects that fracking might bring to groundwater sources, as well as the probable decrease in surface water resources, for spills or leaks of fluids that could occur, for risks in handling and disposal of production waters and for the collateral effects that this technique would generate, such as increased seismicity and pollution due to inadequate handling in the transport, storage and use of hazardous substances (chemicals, sludges, oils, fluids) used for hydraulic fracturing.

The current president Iván Duque committed in Bucaramanga, on April 11th, 2018, that if he triumphed in the presidential elections he would not allow the implementation of fracking. “We have diverse and complex ecosystems, underground aquifers of enormous wealth and risks of increased seismicity due to the types of soils we have. That’s why I said that in Colombia there will be no fracking”, declared President Duque at the time in front of a group of academics and university students gathered in the auditorium of the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga.

Last November, three months after assuming the Presidency, Duque convened an Interdisciplinary Committee of Experts in order to study the possible consequences that the application of the technique of fracking would generate in the country. The mission of this commission – formed by thirteen academics of diverse disciplines going from biology, law, philosophy, economy, intercultural conflict and -civil, mechanical and of petroleum- engineering – was, first of all, to discuss the feasibility of fracking in the country, after corresponding with the communities of the territories where pilot-projects are projected. And second: to evaluate the impacts of this technology in other countries and to review the existing environmental regulations. The final report, which the experts delivered to the national government this March 15th, did not give free rein to fracking in Colombia, but determined that it is possible to carry out some integral pilot projects that allow deepening knowledge about the technique, as well as its true effects.

The voices against the fracking did not take long to make themselves known. Before the General Secretariat of the Council of State were filed on April 24, the first five interventions of organizations which support the claim of nullity against the regulatory framework of fracking.

These interventions are given after the suspension of the rules governing fracking ordered by the State Council in November 2018, which at the time concluded that “the authorization in Colombia for the application of fracking can cause a serious impact on the environment and human health, “and that” the precautionary principle should be applied, even when there is no absolute scientific certainty, there is certainly a minimal evidence of potential damage.”

While the debate continuous in the political environment, in the territories where these projects could be carried out, violence intensifies against those who oppose this technique. In San Martín, a town of nearby 17 thousand inhabitants in the department of Cesar, some fifty citizens of very different profiles got together in April 2016 to create the ‘Corporation for the Defense of  Water, Territory and Ecosystems’ (Cordatec), whose fundamental purpose is to reject the realization of pilots of fracking in San Martín. Since its foundation, the environmental organization has held workshops, forums, seminars, marches and “awareness days” against this technique. All of this has cost them so far accusations, stigmatization, death threats and attacks on their lives.

Despite the voices that oppose this extraction technique, Ecopetrol announces that they have already prepared several projects to develop. The company announces that there are about 20 pilot projects in three areas of the country, with a total investment of 500 million dollars, which, according to its directives, promises to increase gas and oil reserves up to 20 more years.

The national government is already considering the arguments that fracking has generated between environmentalists and the oil industry, and it is estimated that very soon they will make a final decision.


Sources: SEMANA ‘Contraloría advierte que Colombia no está lista para hacer fracking’; NOTICIAS CARACOL ‘Gobierno tendría lista decisión que daría vía libre al fracking en Colombia’; VERDAD ABIERTA ‘El fracturamiento social que ya está generando el fracking’; ALIANZA COLOMBIA LIBRE DE FRACKING ‘Organizaciones solicitan al Consejo de Estado mantener la suspensión del fracking en Colombia’.

Various

Uranium seems to be in large proportion in California, Santander

In their column in the paper of Vanguardia the “Civic Movement for Citizen Awareness” warns that ‘Santanderean’ society should know about studies that prove the possible existence of uranium in the mining area of ​​Minesa in California, Santurbán. A uranium mine is profitable with quantities between 1,000 and 2,000 grams per ton. Minesa in its study only mentions 49 grams per ton. However, a study by OLADE (Latin American Energy Organization) states that the zone of California presents uranium oxide in proportions up to 500 to 20,000 grams per ton. These radioactive wastes must comply with the resolution of the ‘Minminas’ which literally states that “radioactive waste must be disposed in seismically stable zones and hundreds of meters deep”. None of this is included in MINESA’s study of environmental impact. We believe that this is another valuable reason to deny immediately any claim of any company, to exploit at any level our páramos.


Source: VANGUARDIA ‘Uranio parece que puede estar en gran proporción en california’.

 

Magdalena river marshes threatened by water pollution

The population of the fish decreased, there are samples of crude oil, an unsettled soil is determined by high amount of mud and the water contains traces of chemical derivatives such as mercury and cyanide. The swamps of the Magdalena River are passing through hard times. Fishermen who depend on the life below the surface worry about the vulnerable situation of their waters. Work profits have reduced alarmingly. According to fishermen from the San Silvestre swamp, in Barrancabermeja, not only the sewage water can be blamed as a cause, but also the contamination by companies that have their factories and treatment plants in the environment. “They emit part of their waste in streams and canals that have access to the swamp,” says Luis Alberto González, curator of the San Silvestre marsh.


Source: NOTICIAS CARACOL ‘Vertimientos de Aguas de Barrancabermeja tienen en peligro a la ciénaga de San Silvestre’.

 

Communities and organizations succeed to stop a hydroelectric construction in the east of Antioquia

Communities and environmental organizations of Eastern Antioquia managed to stop the ‘Porvenir II’ hydroelectric project, which aimed to build a wall of 140 meters, altering the flow of the Samaná Norte River. The project –  led by Celsia, a subsidiary of the Argos Group – would flood more than 1,000 hectares, endangering endemic flora species and further affecting the victims of the armed conflict, causing displacement and uprooting.

“Since 2010 we’ve endured an intense struggle for the preservation of the Samaná North River as a natural source and ecosystem which should not be intervened by any artificial construction. We believe that Celsia desists to build ‘Provenir II’ because of the fierce opposition of environmental communities and organizations in the region. We have repeatedly pronounced and mobilized to demand the conservation of Samaná Norte,” said Carlos Olaya, member of the Movement. Social for Life and the Defense of the Territory, MOVETE.


Source: COLOMBIA INFORMA ‘Comunidades y organizaciones detienen construcción de hidroeléctrica en el Oriente Antioqueño’.

Mines & Territory, February 2019

Sam Packet | Colombia, Mines&Territory

MONTHLY ONLINE REVIEW ON EXTRACTIVIST ISSUES IN COLOMBIA

ISSUE 02
February 2019

Collection, summary and edition by Sam Packet and Karlijn Van den Broeck

Download Mines & Territory, February 2019 here.

MINES & TERRITORY

February 2019

News comes and goes. With social media as the main outlet for civil society organizations in Colombia to get their stories heard, a story can be famous for a day after which it disappears in the mass information. Mines & Territory aims to register and share these stories for longer than just a viral thread. Mines & Territory collects the most remarkable events that have occurred in the past month regarding extractivist matters in Colombia and summarizes them in English so that the information is accessible to anyone interested and raises awareness internationally to the current eco-socio realities in Colombia.

Colombia’s largest hydroelectric project, Hidroituango, runs Cauca river the country’s second largest river, dry

Colombia is suffering one of the worst ecological disasters in decades after the level of the country’s second most important river, the Cauca, was reduced to less than 10 percent of normal flow. The country’s largest hydroelectric dam project Hidroituango took emergency measures and closed two of the dam’s floodgates following concerns that the danger of a collapse and thus a deadly flood posed a risk to vulnerable communities along the Cauca river in Antioquia.

During three days, from the 5th to the 8th of February, the taken measures reduced water flow from a normal dry-season, 450 to 500 cubic meters per second (m3/s), to only 35 m3/s, according to climate monitoring authority IDEAM. The closing of the floodgates generated almost 60 thousand dead fish, plus shortage of water in the downstream communities, social and economic losses for the inhabitants that live on the riverside and an environmental impact that is yet to be known. According to Neyla Castillo, professor at the Institute of Regional Studies of the University of Antioquia, in some of these towns, such as Sabanalarga, 90 percent of the population depend on revenues of the river.

“Cutting the flow of water in a river is similar to restricting oxygen to a human. There are irreparable consequences” explains Modesto Portilla, geo-science professor at the National University. He also explains that although the water will return to flow again through the river bed, it will take about half a year till the river reaches its regular flow again.

The hydroelectric dam Hidroituango was more than a prestige project by EPM, the electricity company owned by the governing authority of Antioquia. The project, which was planned to be completed in 2018, promised to provide 16% of Colombia’s electricity needs and is valued at around US $4 billion.

However, in April last year landslides in the region blocked a tunnel of the dam. The hydroelectric plant reservoir floods a surface of 11,120 acres. The area was supposed to be cleared of trees and vegetation but experts say the company failed to perform this task which led to the dam’s partial collapse. As two of the exits in the engine room were blocked at that time, the reservoir began to fill. EPM was running a race against time to raise the level of the embankment to prevent a catastrophic flood. The company succeeded in increasing the dam’s height but the foregoing alert, however, displaced thousands of people in the lowlying regions in the river’s path. According to Rios Vivos, an environmental activist group, at least 5 social leaders have already been killed since local criminal groups have gained in influence in the region since the construction of the dam in 2010.

EPM proclaims to take the necessary measures to reduce the ecological impact as much as possible. The company also points out that despite the current situation of the project, the Hidroituango project is expected to generate energy from the year 2021 onwards. Rios Vivos however opts for dismantling the dam to give the river back it’s natural stream. Other experts argue that it would be better to invest in smaller dams along small rivers to reduce the social and ecological impact.

The crisis and subsequent response has once again put EPM in the spotlight and has led to public outcry across social media. Posting under hashtags like #HidroituangoCrimenAmbiental and #YoSoyRioCauca, many Colombians continue to question whether the project will be worth the human and environmental toll it has already caused and will cause in the region.

ANLA, Colombia’s Environmental Licensing Authority, has already opened sanctions against EPM for failing to protect the ecological basin located below the dam.

The Cauca River starts in the country’s most important watershed known as the Colombian Massif. The river has a length of 1,350 kilometers and separates two of the country’s three major mountain ranges, eventually passing through a massive wetlands area before it joins with the country’s largest river La Magdalena.


Sources: PORTAFOLIO ‘¿Qué impactos socioeconómicos deja la crisis en Hidroituango’; MOVIMIENTO RÍOS VIVOS ‘No en nuestro nombre’; RADIO NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA ‘El río Cauca: un patrón agonizante’; EL ESPECTADOR ‘Los enredos jurídicos tras la sequía del Cauca’; THE BOGOTA POST ‘Cauca river recedes as Hidroituango dam closures threaten environmental catastrophe’; MONGABAY ‘Colombia’s disaster-ridden hydropower project runs second largest river dry’

 

Start of the webinars on post-extractivism in Latin America by Yes to Life No to Mining

The first of YLNM’s free ‘Life After Mining’ webinar series focused on the emergence of people-led resistance and alternatives to mining in Latin America.

“What steps has the continent taken? What are some of the strategies being applied at a local level to declare mining-free territories? What are some of the alternatives being built bottomup that tackle the extractive model?” were only some of the few questions that were addressed during the first webinar with the contribution of Latin American experts and community leaders from Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia.
More info about upcoming webinars can be found here.

 

Anglogold Ashanti prolongs a budget of $ 75 million dollar for its operations in Colombia in 2019

Felipe Márquez, president of AngloGold Ashanti Colombia, affirms that they will remain in Colombia even though their mining operation has been suspended by two municipalities, Cajamarca and Jericó.

Marquez informs that the company reserves an investment budget of between US $ 70 and US $ 75 million to continue exploration activities in the projects of Gramalote (gold) and Quebradona (copper) above all. “It is a year in which we hope to advance in both projects. In Gramalote the task is to continue with the resettlement phase and the consistency plan with the artisanal miners. And in Quebradona, we hope to settle first basement and to obtain the environmental license.”

Regarding the mining prohibitions through the agreements by the municipal councils and the prior consultations set up by the communities, the businessman claims that anti-mining groups cannot put people against the wall and pressure them to choose between extractive activity and other activities. He condemns activist groups to have ties with politics (funny indignation though, as if Anglogold Ashanti has no ties with politics) and argues that they only seek to impose the false paradigm that if there is a mining operation, no other economic activity can be developed. He argues that “studies they have done have proved that the majority of the population in those cases wants a coexistence between mining and agricultural activities. “

He furthermore affirms that the national interest in mining and the support of the Constitutional Court luckily opens their
way to further mining possibilities by judging “correctly” that municipalities are not allowed to prohibit mining activities. “Although, mining projects must be developed with dialogue and consensus, it is still a collective acceptance”, according to Márquez. He supports a debate with all stakeholders to put the points around impact and mitigation on the table for discussion.

As far as the La Colosa project in Cajamarca is concerned, he says that there are no further plans on the table. “We do not yet
have the required permits within reach. Moreover, the people of Cajamarca are not yet ready for our return. The consulta popular has left wounds, which we also have to learn from. Although the decision of the Constitutional Court might possibly give us the green light to return, it is not yet time to do so.”


Source: PORTAFOLIO ‘‘Destinamos US$75 millones para la operación en 2019’

 

Publication of Duque’s National Development Plan

Mining and Agriculture

President Duques National Development Plan 2018-2022 (PND for its Spanish acronym) confirms openly its neoliberal vision on economic growth. After reading chapters as “Farmland as progress: an alliance to boost the development and productivity of rural Colombia” and “Pact for mining-energy resources for sustainable growth and the expansion of opportunities” we can assure that Colombia is facing another deepening of the extractive and agroindustry.

With an economy based on the exploitation of resources, Colombia was shaped as a pilgrimage country for big capital, which deepened an economic and political dependence on the countries that dominate markets and power relations worldwide. Nonetheless, it’s exactly the importance of this same sector that is justified once again in the bases of the PND as one that attracts more foreign investment and promotes territorial development. Under the sophism of “a regulated and responsible use of the soil”, the PND opens the doors to expand the mining frontier even more. Therefore, primary goods such as coal, gold, petroleum, palm oil, sugar cane and banana, particularly, are the most promoted.

Additionally, the extractive model is deepened and ‘perfected’, with the facility that mining-energy companies can cancel a mayor part (up to 50% according to some experts) of their taxations through the execution of social projects in the regions. This can be seen as a facilitation for extractive and polluting companies to improve their relations with the opposing communities. In short: the construction of roads, potable water projects, construction of schools or health posts, which is supposed to be the responsibility of the State, will be more frequently executed under the direction of multinationals with their corporate logo.

The agrarian and rural development aspects in the PND are mainly resumed in the pact for entrepreneurship. The main core of the country’s vision on agriculture can be defined as a pact of inequality for the peasantry and power for the big industries and landowners in the country.

Environmental management

Another consequence of the NDP seems to be the militarization of environmental management. This measure does not seem to focus on ecological protection but rather on replacing illegal mining activities with others that are legal in the sense of being granted by the State. The measures in national security and defense of natural resources will be in hands of a force called “Integral Environmental Protection” formed by military and police forces, coordinating with the environmental authorities. In this way, police and soldiers are supposed to be the new protectors of “biodiversity”.

Summarized, the new PND fails to straighten the economy, does not attack structural problems or accelerate the transition to clean energies. This only predicts more years of mining, industrial soil-exhausting agriculture and huge profits for large companies.


Source: BLOGS EL ESPECTADOR ‘Gudynas Eduardo’ ~ Se militariza la gestion ambiental y territorial?’; LA SILLALLENA ‘El Plan Nacional de Desarrollo no es un “pacto por Colombia” sino por el extractivismo’; RADIO MACONDO ‘El campo en el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo: Se institucionaliza el atraso’

 

Anglogold Ashanti’s illegal mining continues in Jericó

On January 26th, the Town Hall of Jericó suspended the mining activities of the Quebradona Mining Company. The daughter company of Anglogold Ashanti previously ignored the 010 Agreement from the Municipality Council, which prohibited all metal mining activities since December 2018.

The Mayor passed the suspension order to the environmental authority that is in charge of sanctions and regulations of concerning issues: the Autonomous Regional Corporation- Corantioquia. The Corporation received the order, studied the situation and decided that the mining company was using the water through legitimate concession. Therefore, it did not find any merit on taking any sanctioning decisions against the company so they ended up ignoring the decision of the Mayor.

The position of Corantioquia has been questioned as they ignored the Municipality’s decision oriented towards the protection of ecological and cultural patrimony of Jericó. Additionally, the 010 Agreement has not been invalidated by the only competent authority that could do so: the Administrative Court of Antioquia. However, AngloGold Ashanti, shielded by the Corporation and its questionable decision-making, has continued with the illegal mining activities.


Sources: YES TO LIFE NO TO MINING ‘Anglogold Ashanti’s illegal mining continues in Jericó, Colombia’; EL TIEMPO ‘Corantioquia levantó medida preventiva que suspende minería en Jericó’

 

Pipe leak results in environmental emergency in Acacias, Meta province

The communities of Acacias, Meta, denounced an environmental emergency after the rupture of a pouring pipe from the oil company Ecopetrol in the village of La Unión, where the leak contaminated at least 900 m² of wetlands.

Local farmers blamed Ecopetrol’s delay in its reaction to the environmental emergency given that the oil company waited more than nine hours to start repairing the pipeline after the owner of the property informed the company. The facts were reported to the Corporation for environmental issues in the area (Cormacarena), however, the farmer corporations did not receive a response from the environmental authority.

It’s not the first time a leak provokes environmental damage in the area. According to the fishermen, there is proof of a raised fish mortality due to contamination with crude oil.


Source: CONTAGIRADIO ‘Ruptura de tubo de ecopetrol generó emergencia ambiental en Acacias, Meta’

 

Forest fire destroys 2,000 hectares in ‘El Nevado del Cocuy’

The fire remained four days, from Tuesday 7th of February till Sunday 10th. Firefighters, peasants and indigenous tribes made efforts to extinguish the forest fire that occurred in the village of Tabor, municipality of Güicán, Boyacá.

The access to the burning area was only possible in vehicle until a certain part. The firefighters had to walk the rest of the passage, a mountain range which delayed them 10 to 12 hours. According to preliminary reports, the estimated loose of about 2,129 hectares of páramo vegetation due to the fire would be classified as the worst and largest natural disaster in the Cocuy Natural Park. The area that was affected is part of the U’wa indigenous tribe settlement and authorities presume that the fire was started by an individual as a result of a “controlled burning” in order to prepare the crop season.


Source: EL TIEMPO ‘Incendio afectó 2.000 hectáreas el Nevado del Cocuy’

 

The Constitutional Court persist: community referendum cannot veto mining activities

On Wednesday, February 13th, environmentalists and NGO’s lost the battle they undertook to return the power of community referendums (consultas populares) related to mining and hydrocarbon projects.

Unanimously, the magistrates of the High Court knocked down article 33 of the norm that establishes the rules of operation of municipalities (Law 36 of 1994). That article established that when the development of projects of a tourist, mining or other entity threatens the use of the land by significant changes leading to a transformation in the traditional activities of a municipality, a consulta popular should be carried out according to the law. By declaring this measures unenforceable, the High Court upholds the position it expressed in October 2018, when the results of a referendum held in Cumaral (Meta) were
not recognized by its judges.

The High Court ratified its position in the sense that although the Constitution recognizes the competences of the territorial entities to establish land use, this proper function must be exercised in a coordinated manner with the competences of the Nation. Therefore, the High Court decided to drop down the cornering article for “defects of procedure”.

It is anyhow worth remembering that in the veredict of October 2018, the Court ordered the Congress to define one or several mechanisms of citizen participation and instruments of nation territory coordination and concurrence as soon as possible…

…nothing perceived yet.


Sources: SEMANA ‘Corte se mantiene: consultas populares no pueden vetar la minería’; EL ESPECTADOR ‘Proyectos mineros podrán hacerse sin consultas populares previas’; CANAL 1 ‘Imponen restricciones a consultas populares en municipios y departamentos’