Open MinEd – International Speakers Tour 2020

Daniela Marques Branco | Colombia, Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, Mining, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, News, Open Min(e)d, Open Min(e)d, Open Min(e)d, Open Min(e)d, Open Min(e)d

Open MinEd 2020:

The extraction of life, gold and oil

We again reached a record. The amount of material consumed by humanity has passed 100 billion tonnes every year*. At the same time the percentage of materials recycled is lower than the years before. In short, we are overconsuming. To satisfy our increasing demand of goods companies look for  the lowest production cost, which means bad labor conditions and the generation and accumulation of tons of waste only to get the highest amount of profit. Let’s think together about solutions before there are no resources left!

During the 11th edition of CATAPA’s Open MinEd international speakers tour we focus on the impacts of our constant demand for products and the resources we need to produce them. We will zoom on workers in China, producing our electronic devices in awful labor conditions. We will go to Colombia where everything starts with the extraction of gold, a basic resource in all our ICT products, creates all kinds of problems for communities. And lastly, we put the ecological and social consequences in the spotlight of one of our most important resources: oil. During the diverse events of the speakers tour we will look for answers, search for alternatives to our current way of producing and consuming, highlighting fair initiatives and inspiring movements.

We are glad to host three speakers, witnesses of exploitation and struggle, who are fighting for a just world:

– Lap Hang Au is a member of the Labour Education and Service Network in Hong Kong. He will talk about the workers’ conditions in ICT factories in China and he has specific expertise in the impact of lithium-ion batteries used for electric cars. These are considered fundamental for the Green Transition.  

– Antonella Calle Avilés is an Ecuadorian feminist and ecologist. She is active in our partner organization, Acción Ecológica, an environmental organization engaged in campaigns on the impacts of extraction. For years, Antonella has been an environmental rights defender and, at the moment, she is mainly focused on the oil extraction project in Yasuní national park, one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

– Yefferson Rojas Arango is the co-founder of our partner organization COSAJUCA in Colombia. It’s a youth collective successfully fought against a huge open pit-gold project called ‘La Colosa’. Now the collective and Yefferson are focusing on alternatives to mining in the region, such as organic farming. He is particularly interested in agro ecology and medicinal plants. 

From 8 – 15 March our international guest speakers will participate in events and lectures in different cities and universities of Belgium, telling their stories and sharing their knowledge. 

 

AGENDA

THURSDAY 5th March

Evening tbc | Opening exhibition: Activism and feminism | ES, NL
@Antwerp – Mundana, Paardenmarkt 74

SUNDAY 8th March

9:30 – 11:30h | ANTONELLA | Ontbijt met een Rebel (Belmundo) | NL
@Ghent – Bond Moyson, Vrijdagmarkt 10 (take the entrance through the door in the street ‘Meerseniersstraat’)

MONDAY 9th March

20h | ANTONELLA | GEC Talks (Belmundo) | NL
@Ghent – Lekker GEC, Koningin Maria Hendrikaplein 6

14:30 – 17h | ANTONELLA | Guest lecture | EN
@Ghent – Universiteitstraat 4, auditorium B

16 – 17:30h | AU | Guest lecture | EN
@Heverlee (Leuven) – KU Leuven Celestijnenlaan 200C-01.06 (aula D) (Campus Heverlee)

8:30 – 9:45h |YEFFERSON | Guest lecture | ES
@Gent – UGent, Abdisstraat 1, auditorium A410

13 – 14:30h | YEFFERSON | Guest lecture | NL
@Gent – Campus aula, universiteitsstraat 4, auditorium D (straatkant, vlak aan kalandeberg)

TUESDAY 10th March

11 – 12h |AU | Webinar from Fair ICT Flanders: Labour conditions in Battery factories in China | ES
@Online

14 – 15:30h | AU | Guest lecture | EN
@VIVES Brugge

18 – 19:30h | AU | Guest lecture | EN
@Gent – address + auditorium to be confirmed

20h | ANTONELLA | Cinema Belmundo, movie screening of By the name of Tania | NL
@Gent – Studio Skoop, Sint-Annaplein 63.

WEDNESDAY 11th March

12:30 – 13:50 | YEFFERSON | Spanish Class | ES
@Antwerp – Universiteit Antwerpen Stadscampus – auditorium tbc

THURSDAY 12th March

9 – 10:30 | YEFFERSON | Guest lecture | EN
@Leuven – KULeuven HIVA Parkstraat 47

13 – 17h | AU | Conference: “Green Transition Challenged by the Metal Supply Chain” | EN
@Flemish Parliament, Brussels https://kuleuven.sim2.be/registration-for-green-transition-challenged-by-the-metal-supply-chain/

FRIDAY 13th March

14:30 – 17:15h | ANTONELLA | Guest lecture: Political issues of sustainability: ecology, justice and North-South relations. The case of mining | NL
@Ghent – UGent, Universiteitsstraat 4, auditorium tbc

10:45 – 12:15h | AU | Guest lecture: Car technology & automotive engineering | EN
@Sint-Katelijn-Waver- KU Leuven Technology Campus De Nayer, Jan Pieter de Nayerlaan 5, ROOM A002

Evening tbc | ANTONELLA & YEFFERSON | Fun(d)raising concert |NL, ES, EN
@Gent – to be confirmed

SATURDAY 14th March

17:30 | ANTONELLA & YEFFERSON | Benefit Dinner Ecuador – Colombia | NL
@Gent – Louisaal (Buurtcentrum Macharius), Tarbotstraat 61A.

SUNDAY 15th March

Morning tbc | YEFFERSON | Brunch with Farmers |
@Brussels – address to be confirmed

Facebook event

*The Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative: a global score for circularity

©Pablo Rojas Madariaga / Danwatch

Lithium exploitation is drying out the world’s driest desert

Aäron De Fruyt | Chile, Chile, Chile, Chile, Chile, Mining, Publications

Lithium exploitation is drying out the world’s driest desert 

*This article is a summary of a longer investigation project from Danwatch, published in collaboration with CATAPA and SETEM. More information at the end of the article.

The Acatama Desert in Chile, the world’s driest desert, is gradually losing its last water resources. Indigenous communities have been sounding the alarm for several years and are now being strengthened by scientific research and environmental organisations. Cause of this dehydration? Lithium mining.

Lithium is essential for the batteries in our phones, our computers and the explosive increase in the number of electric vehicles that are often seen as the key to a green energy transition. Chile, which has half of the world’s lithium reserves, has been declared the ‘Saudi Arabia of Lithium’ and almost all of its exports are currently extracted from the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world. But extracting Atacama’s lithium means pumping up huge amounts of scarce water resources. Water resources that have enabled indigenous peoples and animals to survive in the desert for thousands of years. 

According to researchers, extraction is already causing lasting damage to the area’s fragile ecosystems. In the Atacama and elsewhere in Chile, indigenous communities are now protesting against current and future plans for lithium extraction. Many communities claim that they were never consulted before the mining projects, although the Chilean authorities are obliged to do so under international treaties ratified by the Chilean state. The Danish research centre Danwatch can document that companies like Samsung, Panasonic, Apple, Tesla and BMW get batteries from companies that use Chilean lithium.

With the country’s incomparable lithium reserves and the increasing importance of the metal for the energy sector, Chile has occasionally been awarded the label ‘Saudi Arabia of Lithium’. Nearly 40 percent of the global supply comes from Chile over the past 20 years and, as Danwatch can reveal, it ends up in some of the most popular electronics and electric cars. The metal is one of the most popular products of the Chilean energy sector. 

However, the Atacama’s indigenous communities were caught up in speed. Chile has signed ILO Convention 169, which obliges governments to consult indigenous people when major projects are carried out in their area. However, according to the people of Pai-Ote, they were not consulted before the lithium projects were presented in the media. “We found out from the press that an agreement had been made that allowed SQM to start lithium mining here. Nobody asked the Colla people if they wanted the mining on their territory,” says Ariel Leon, representative of the Colla community.

Chilean lithium can be extracted at low cost: miners pump lithium brine from a massive reservoir under the Atacama salt plain to huge puddles on the surface of the desert. The highest solar radiation in the world causes the water in the brine to evaporate quickly, causing the lithium to be scooped up together with other salts and minerals.

During this process, 95% of the extracted brine evaporates into the air. This accelerates the water scarcity in the Atacama, says Ingrid Garces, a professor of technology at the Chilean University of Antofagasta, who conducts research into salt pans. “In Chile, lithium mining is considered to be a normal form of mining, as if you were mining a hard rock. But this is not regular mining – it’s water extraction,” she says.

The two companies behind lithium mining in the Atacama, the Chilean Soc. Química & Minera de Chile (SQM) and the American Albemarle Corp. have permits to extract almost 2,000 litres of brine per second. In addition to the brine, lithium miners also extract significant amounts of fresh water along with the nearby copper mines. “The result is an impact on biodiversity in general. And that effect is already visible – the wetlands are drying out,” says Ingrid Garces.

Atacama’s indigenous communities have been sounding the alarm about water scarcity for years. According to the Atacama People’s Council, which represents 18 indigenous communities, rivers, lagoons and meadows have all declined in water over the past decade. However, the Chilean authorities have largely relied on the environmental impact assessments of the mining companies themselves. And, in general, these studies have not found any significant impact on water levels or the surrounding nature.

“For the locals, the change is very clear. They notice that there is less water for their animals, and they see how the rivers dry out. This anecdotal knowledge is not taken seriously by the companies or the state,” says Cristina Dorador, biologist and associate professor at the Chilean University of Antofagasta, who studies the microbial life in the Atacama.

In August 2019, an analysis of satellite images by the satellite analysis company SpaceKnow and the scientific journal Engineering & Technology came to a similar conclusion. Based on satellite images from the period 2015-2019, they saw a strong inverse relationship between the water level in the lithium ponds of SQM and the surrounding lagoons: “As the water level in the SQM ponds increased, the water level in the lagoons would drop”.

Ironically, the Atacama salt plain was once a large lake before it dried up thousands of years ago due to severe climate change. Scientists are studying the desert today as an example of what can happen to ecosystems elsewhere on the planet if global climate change becomes effective. But in an effort to mitigate rising temperatures with electric cars, industries are sucking away the little water left in the world’s driest desert with all the social and ecological impact as a consequence. 

Companies are often greenwashing. This greenwashing narrative is based on the claim that a substantial increase in metal mining is necessary to meet the material needs of renewable energy technologies and associated infrastructure. However, the renewable energy sector will under no circumstances consume the majority of the metals’ annual production. Nevertheless, this narrative let mining companies sacrificing new sites to explore

Danwatch, SETEM and CATAPA  did research to the impact of lithium exploitation in the framework of the European project: Make ICT Fair. This project wants to make the supply chain of electronics more visible and influence public buyers to ask their ICT suppliers, both mining companies and manufactures,  to improve environmental and labour condition. Lithium, as one of the most important metal in the transition to green economies, became the focus of this article.

Danwatch has been to Chile to investigate the country’s growing lithium extraction industry. In the process, they have interviewed numerous scientists, companies, politicians and the people who live closest to the extraction sites. They have reviewed the mining companies’ impact studies as well as the few independent research papers on the topic. They especially base the investigation on a 2019 study on lithium mining in Chile by researchers from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability.
The investigation is supported by the EU-funded project Make ICT Fair and published in collaboration with SETEM and CATAPA.

DEVICES DRAINING THE DESERT 

Check all the articles from the investigation project below.

ARTICLE 1: Our demand for batteries is drying up the world’s most arid place.
ARTICLE 2: Much of the world’s lithium is being extracted from indigenous peoples’ territories against their will.
ARTICLE 3: Indigenous peoples face charges as they resist future lithium projects across Chile.

ARTICLE 4: There’s probably Chilean lithium behind the screen you’re reading this on.

ARTICLE 5: How much water is used to make the world’s batteries?

ARTICLE 6 / INTERVIEW: The mining companies only see water. But water is life for us.

Interview with 67-year old Clementino López, one of around 20,000 indigenous Likan Antai living in the Atacama Desert

ARTICLE 7 / VIDEO: Watch the surreal lithium extraction landscapes from above.

Watch the surreal lithium extraction landscapes from above

Written by Aäron De Fruyt and Charlotte Christiaens.
Photography: ©Pablo Rojas Madariaga / Danwatch

Art as a Form of Protest – Peru

Maxime Degroote | GECOs on the road, GECOs on the road, GECOs on the road, Mining, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Peru, Publications

Art as a Form of Protest – Peru

As all neighboring countries of Peru are stuck or have been stuck in violent protests recently, Peru seems calm. Cajamarca, known for its huge protests to stop the mining project of Conga, seems calm.

Those protests happened only about 7 years ago, in 2011 and 2012, and still have a special taste in everyone’s mouth. Everyone in Cajamarca today has lived them profoundly. Everyone has somehow been part of the cruel protests. But looking at Cajamarca now, it seems like the idea of protesting has died. It seems like people have quietly accepted legal and illegal mining activity in the region. For example, there seems to be no reaction to the new mining project Michiquillay of the company Southern Copper, which they hope to start using in 2022. And there is very little reaction to the contamination of the Valle de Condebamba, where vegetables most Cajamarquinos eat get produced and are severely contaminated with toxic metals.

Why is that? Why do people stay calm? Is it because there are too many protests in Peru? Because they got tired? Because of the number of social conflicts that never get resolved? Because of the 279 people that died defending human rights until 2018 in Peru? Because of the horrible criminalization of protests in Peru in all its forms – both direct attacks as methods like states of emergency? Because of the memory of the horrible protests in 2012?

All very good reasons to not take to the streets anymore. But the truth is – the protests have never really stopped. They have just taken different forms.


Silent protests

Calm, silent protests are happening everywhere. Protesting doesn’t mean aggression. Protesting means showing how things can be different, making people think, for example through art, photo exhibitions, music, whatever you feel like. Protesting can be as silent or as violent as you want it to be. It’s your fight.

So yes, people in Cajamarca – or in Peru – might be tired of protest marches. It’s easy to see that the protest marches for women rights are smaller every year. The three climate change actions we’ve organized this year shrunk every time, and in June, when bull fights came back to Cajamarca after years, we were just a small group screaming outside of the arena holding up cardboards and getting laughed at.

But almost no one came to see the bull fights. The stadium was empty, which made the government cancel the second day of fights. And isn’t that a sign that Cajamarca doesn’t want bull fights anymore? Isn’t just not showing up a form of protest too? Isn’t silent protest, protest too?


Cross boundaries

Protest is what you want it to be. And using art as a form of protest isn’t something new. In fact, it represents the way of protesting in Peru. In the world. And all through history.

It’s said that art as a form of protest or activism was first seen with Dada, an anti-war movement which openly outed critiques to the First World War. Picasso protested with paintings based on for example the Spanish Civil War. The Vietnam War formed a base for many works of art in the sixties, and also gender issues, feminism, immigrant problems, and so on, got addressed through art. And then we haven’t even mentioned Banksy yet with all his work on all kinds of global issues, or the Russian feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot that dealt with themes as feminism, freedom of speech, LGBT+ rights, etcetera, through their music.

Art is political, and art can be a powerful weapon. Art can make you think about things you hadn’t thought about before. Art can make a political statement, can be some sort of critique on a political or social situation. Art often looks up boundaries, or crosses them.


Art and activism

Also during the awful protests against mining project Conga in 2011 and 2012, art was used. The Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca changed into an art gallery, there were concerts, people were singing and dancing on the street. The Marcha del Agua towards Lima was beautiful with everyone singing together. And that has never stopped. That’s still part of Peru’s – or Cajamarca’s – culture. Art is protest.

As Carlos, founder of an environmental organization in Cajamarca says: “Art has a great impact on people. People get conscious about the environment, and on top of that about the beauty of the art and the people.” Art has an incredibly creative power to move people emotionally, while activism sets a goal, shows us the social or political change we need to see in the world. Art moves a feeling, while activism creates an effect. And in order to make that change, in order to get that effect, we need some sort of stimulation. We need to be moved. Emotionally. Art and activism combined, can lead to many, many things.

On top of that, art used as a form of protest, outside of actual protest marches or political spaces, gets you a surprise effect. It makes people think about serious, maybe political, issues, without them maybe realizing it. It gets in your mind, and slowly, gets you to that effect activism wants to reach.


Changing minds

Murals for example, big paintings on walls, are widely used as a form of protest or activism in Cajamarca and in Peru. In the province of Celendín the streets are full of colourful walls. And also in Cajamarca the city is covered in painted walls, leaving powerful messages. Something we could already see in the beginning of the 20th century in Mexico.

And I have to admit, while painting one of those murals, thinking about the load of work waiting for me on my desk, I did think to myself that I could use my time better. That I could actually do something useful to help the environment, instead of just paint. That I shouldn’t waste my time painting a wall with a message probably no one would read. But was I wrong. All the people passing by that day stopped to check out our message. To see what it was about. And still very often, as I walk passed that wall, I see people talking about the painting. Maybe the mural didn’t gain the change immediately. But it is changing people’s minds, slowly, daily, firmly.

The same happened when we used a beautiful Cajamarcan tradition as a form of activism. On Corpus Christi, the whole Plaza de Armas gets covered in alfombras, or flower carpets. We focused on animal rights and protested against the bull fights with our carpet, whereas some others used it to address gender inequality, for example. And in between the beautiful art works, those pieces of art showing some sort of social or political issue, were the alfombras where most people stood around, discussing what they saw. Not what was actually there, but what they saw, what it meant to them, what they understood the message was. It made people rethink their own actions.


Happiness in protest

And that’s not all. Ecological fairs keep popping out of the ground like mushrooms, focusing on economic alternatives to mining and environmental issues, and that way making passengers-by think about the impact of mining activity without them realizing that’s what it’s about. Wakes are organized to mourn the death of our environment, combined with a beautiful piano concert, to focus on environmental issues in a different way. Theatres are held all through town showing the effects of gender inequality or climate change. Movie nights focusing on social themes are a big thing.

The lyrics to the typical cheerful carnival music of Cajamarca get changed to songs defending human rights and are being sung whenever the opportunity shows.

A few weeks ago a protest action was held at Cerro Quilish. Only about 30 people showed up, hiking to the top of the mountain from where you could look out over Yanacocha. But those 30 people brought up their giant speaker, singing and dancing their way up. And after the talk on top of the mountain, the volume of that same speaker was turned up a bit more.

People opened their bags, uncovering bowls of food, giving everyone a spoonful of whatever they had brought. Sharing. Dancing. Singing. Turning a protest into a beautiful moment together, showing their strength, their traditions, their bond. Showing they are one. Unstoppable. Finding happiness in protest.


Beautiful protests

There’s loads of centers that open their doors for all kind of social movement or activity, for free, supporting artists. There’s a cultural magazine made entirely by volunteers that also hold events every few weeks addressing for example topics as cultural identity, traditions, history. There’s movies or poetry in Quechua to make people rethink their roots and history. There’s dozens of bands in Cajamarca singing about animal rights or human rights or violence against women or any topic you can think of.

Lots of youth organizations take charge and organize fun activities for all ages such as actions on recycling with quiz questions and prices to win. Photo exhibitions focus on what nature should look like and shows the work of different human and environmental right defenders.

Of course, protesting is hard in Peru. And it’s sad that there’s still so much to protest about. But at least we know it will always be here, in its own way. And protesting can be so, so beautiful.

There’s resistance. There’s hope. In all its forms. Don’t underestimate the power of art. And don’t underestimate Cajamarca.

Armenia: Amulsar, the Mountain where Water is more Precious than Gold

Laura Luciani | Armenia, Armenia, Armenia, Disaster, Disaster, Disaster, Mining, Press, Publications, Disaster

On the 2nd of October, CATAPA had the honor of receiving Armenian activist Anna Shahnazaryan, from the Armenian Environmental Front. She is part of the Save Amulsar campaign, which for years has been opposing the Amulsar gold mine by Lydian International. The Amulsar mine is the second largest gold deposit in Armenia. Shahnazaryan travelled to Belgium to have conversations with EU lobby groups and managed to give a short presentation with CATAPA.

During this gathering, we also met Laura Luciani (author of this article), who is a PhD student at the Centre for EU Studies of Ghent University, where she researches human rights and civil society in the South Caucasus.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE in the East Journal in Italian, by Laura Luciani.

Armenia: Amulsar, the Mountain where Water is more Precious than Gold

In 1986, a group of 350 Armenian intellectuals wrote an open letter to Mikhail Gorbačëv to denounce the catastrophic consequences of pollution caused by heavy industries, whose repercussions had long been ignored by the Soviet authorities. Even though for over thirty years environmental protests have been taking place in an almost cyclical way in Armenia, and the damages caused by irresponsible industrial practices are constantly monitored, today citizens still have to take to the streets to prevent yet another ecological disaster.

For seven years, local communities and environmentalist groups have been opposing the construction of a gold mine in Amulsar – a mountainous area in the South of Armenia, located in the centre of the national water supply system. But in the last year, in the wake of the political changes that affected Armenia, this local protest has taken on a transnational dimension: now, the “post-Velvet-Revolution” government led by Nikol Pashinyan finds itself having to handle it with caution.

The project and its impact

Armenia is a country rich in mineral resources including copper, gold, but also lead, silver, zinc and other industrial minerals; these constitute more than half of the country’s exports. With a surface of less than 30,000 km2, Armenia counts today around 27 authorized mineral sites, of which 17 are active. However, the exploitation of these deposits has for decades been at the centre of controversies due to mismanagement and to these extractive projects’ extremely negative environmental effects.

In 2012, a mining company called Lydian Armenia (subsidiary of the offshore company Lydian International) signs a first deal with the Armenian government, at that time led by the Republican Party. In 2016, the company receives the final mine operation permit, even though the project is highly problematic. Amulsar, which is the 2nd largest gold deposit in Armenia, is in fact located only 6 km away from the spa town of Jermuk, famous for its thermal water: the inhabitants (who were not consulted about the project and its impact) fear that the proximity of the mine and the pollution resulting from it may discourage tourist flows to the town, thus affecting the community’s main source of income.

Scientists also indicate that the project could have ecological repercussions on a much larger scale: the Amulsar deposit is located within a seismic area, which increases the risk that acid drainage processes, accelerated by the excavations, leak in and contaminate the surrounding rivers (Arpa, Vorotan and Darb), with negative consequences for agriculture and livestock. Furthermore, contamination threatens to reach Lake Sevan – the largest freshwater reservoir of the country and an almost sacred place in Armenian popular culture. Last but not least, the project would alter the Amulsar ecosystem, which hosts different protected species including the Caucasian leopard (or Persian leopard) – of which only 10 specimen remain in Armenia.

A turning point 

After years of protest, in June 2018 the local communities decided to seize the window of opportunity opened by the “Velvet Revolution” that took place over one month earlier (thanks to an unprecedented wave of mass peaceful protests) to undertake direct action and block the streets leading to the mining site. The #SaveAmulsar campaign was born: for over a year and a half, local people supported by environmental activists have been supervising the entrance to the mine, doing shifts in checkpoints they built for this purpose, and managed to effectively stop the works in the construction site.

However, the citizens’ euphoria suffered a severe blow on 9 September this year: after opening an investigation and commissioning an independent assessment of the project’s environmental impact, prime minister Nikol Pashinyan unexpectedly gave the go-ahead for the digging in the Amulsar gold mine, asking protesters to clear the streets. As Anna Shahnazaryan, Armenian Environmental Front’s activist, explains in an interview for Kiosk (T.N. Italian radio programme), “the independent report, published in August, stated that Lydian’s estimations about the mine’s impact on water resources were incorrect, and that the project contained several evaluation errors – including intentional ones. Therefore, the environmental impact mitigation measures envisaged by Lydian were not adequate”.

Nevertheless, the Investigative Committee and the prime minister himself concluded that the company would be able to manage all the environmental risks. “For this reason, – Shahnazaryan continues – in the last two months the situation has become hectic: the prime minister took the side of Lydian and organized different meetings with the company’s representatives, while we activists took to the streets both in Amulsar and in Yerevan”.

“Post-revolutionary” Armenia and its problems

Experts suggest that Pashinyan is defending the private interests of Lydian Armenia and its investors (among which the USA, the United Kingdom and several international financial institutions) to prevent the company from having recourse to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This is an international mechanism which allows a foreign investor to request arbitration by a corporate court if the “host-state” violates its rights: this decision could cost Armenia around two billion dollars, that is two thirds of its state budget.

However, there are also people who believe that Pashinyan’s ambiguous position is symptomatic of some criticalities of Armenia’s post-revolutionary government: first, the lack of an ideology going beyond the mere overthrow of the corrupt political system, which for ten years had been in the hands of former president Serzh Sarghsyan. According to Anna Shahnazaryan, “the current government uses many slogans, but behind the slogans there is little action. And one of these slogans is ‘we will not follow the economic path traced by the previous government, which focused on the mining industry, but we will try to develop new sectors such as tourism and the IT sector’”.

In reality, the “economic revolution” that Pashinyan wants to bring about in Armenia seems to be based on the same neo-liberal approach of the previous government, aimed at “opening up the country” to multinationals and foreign investors (with the 400 million dollars destined for Amulsar, Lydian would be the largest single investor in the history of independent Armenia). An understanding of “development” which disregards ecological considerations, human rights and the citizens’ well-being.

Another problem, Shahnazaryan points out, is that “with the revolution in Armenia people developed a certain idolatry of the current prime minister, who is considered the leader of the revolution. Many former activists who participated in the revolution and were then elected to Parliament have now expressed ‘unconditional support’ to Pashinyan’s position on Amulsar”. According to Shahnazaryan, this raised many doubts, even among those who were not necessarily opposed to the project, “because it is something that undermines the democratic structure of the country: the legislative body should not be ‘unconditionally supporting’ the person that it is in charge of supervising”.

#SaveAmulsar continues 

Last year, the Armenian Environmental Front launched a petition requesting municipal councils in Jermuk and other towns in the region to ban all mining activities and declare Jermuk an ‘ecological area’. Although the petition has collected 12,000 signatures so far, the government has recently appealed against this initiative. Lydian Armenia is also putting pressure on protesters through legal channels.

Meanwhile, activists are trying to internationalize the movement, with the aim of exposing the responsibilities of international financial institutions (in this case, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development) and other project funders (notably, the Swedish government which channelled money to Amulsar through state export-credit funds) in the global phenomenon of extractivism – namely non-sustainable development practices based on the extraction of mineral resources at the expense of local communities’ interests and the environment on which they depend.

Anna Shahnazaryan is convinced that the government cannot give a definitive authorization to Lydian “because the citizens are firmly opposed to the project, and if Pashinyan decides to use violent methods this will only turn against him”. The stakes in Amulsar seem to be very high: they do not “only” touch upon the protection of the environment and natural resources, but also the legitimacy of Nikol Pashinyan and the future of democracy in Armenia.

Press Release: Make ICT Fair Breakfast at the European Parliament

Daniela Marques Branco | Mining, Press

Press Release: Make ICT Fair Breakfast at the European Parliament

Raising Awareness of Human Rights Violations in ICT Supply Chains

On the morning of the 1st October, the Make ICT Fair consortium held a breakfast event at the European Parliament in Brussels attended by around thirty participants. The event was hosted by Austrian MEP Monika Vana of the Greens/EFA and Swedish MEP Abir Al-Sahlani of Renew Europe in the Members Salon of the Parliament. The breakfast was organised to raise awareness of sustainability and human rights abuses in the supply chain of information communication technology (ICT) products, as well as facilitate the discussion on the role of MEPs in promoting EU policies on human rights, European development banks and public procurement.

MEP Abir Al-Sahlani said: “Our societies have benefited greatly from globalization. But it is important to raise awareness of human rights risks associated with the production of some of the most popular products that many of us enjoy – like smartphones. People should never be in danger when doing their jobs.”

The breakfast began with a video testimonial addressed to MEPs from Pak Kin Wan, a worker in the Labour Education and Service Network in Hong Kong, and a speech by Anna Shahnazaryan who works in the Armenian Environmental Front in Armenia and had experienced first-hand the violations to human rights.  Following this, speakers from SETEM, Bankwatch and Südwind gave talks on the priority EU areas of action: business and human rights, European development banks and public procurement. 

“The situation of workers in ICT supply chains demands our immediate attention,” said MEP Monika Vana. “Human rights and labour rights are violated every day, alongside severely negative impacts on the environment in many countries. We as politicians have a responsibility and the possibility to act efficiently. It is us who can help to ensure that a legal framework is in place, that guides companies and financial institutions to carry out human rights due diligence before business or financial decisions are taken. We can also make sure that the European Parliament applies the same level of scrutiny towards its own ICT procurement.”

Make ICT Fair participant organisations presented the MEPs with a list of case studies conducted by members of the consortium, as well as a briefing document outlining the key actions MEPs can take to ensure the implementation of fair and sustainable EU policies on the priority areas. 

Participants could upload photos and footage using the hashtag #MakeICTFair and #fairelectronics on social media. 

For more information contact the Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Sergi Corbalán, at corbalan@fairtrade-advocacy.org.  

Notes

Make ICT Fair is an EU-wide project that aims to improve the lives of workers and communities affected by the production of ICT devices such as smartphones and laptops. We target EU citizens, public procurers, development banks, decision-makers, and companies to improve their purchasing practices and to align policies. The partners: SETEM Catalunya, CATAPA, ICLEI, the University of Edinburgh, Le Monde Diplomatique, People & Planet, CEE Bankwatch, Swedwatch, Electronics Watch, Towards Sustainability Association, and Südwind.

Mining in Azuay: a David vs. Goliath story

Kim Baert | Ecuador, Mines&Territory, Mining, News, Report, Report, Report, Report, Report

Mining in Azuay: a David vs. Goliath story

Azuay, a province in the south of Ecuador with Cuenca as its historic and cultural provincial capital, has rapidly developed into an emblematic region in the fight against mining. 

In the canton of Girón, in the province of Azuay, a public consultation (Consulta Popular) was organized on the 24th of March 2019 about the large-scale mining project Loma Larga. An historic event, because it was the first local referendum in Ecuador on a mining activity. 

During the Consulta Popular in Girón, the inhabitants were asked whether they agreed with extracting gold in the Páramo of Kimsacocha, located in the Cajas National Park. A páramo is a fragile ecosystem in the Andes High Mountains that is vital for water supply in the region and in the country. 

The result of the referendum was convincing! 87% of the community preferred water to gold and said “si a la vida, no a la minería”. An important precedent in Ecuador, because after this victory, other provinces tried to follow suit. Imbabura and Carchi, two provinces in the north of Ecuador, recently submitted an application for a Consulta Popular, but unfortunately this has been rejected by the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court. 

Also in terms of political leadership, the importance of the province of Azuay should not be underestimated. In May 2019 the inhabitants elected Yaku Pérez Guartambel as the new prefect. Since then, he has led the autonomous government of the province of Azuay. 

Yaku Pérez is known for his strong statements against the mining sector and his ambition to legally clear the province of Azuay from metal mining, in particular by organizing referendum. Yaku Pérez quickly became a symbolic figure in the country. 

Yaku Pérez at the demonstration in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

A constitutional problem 

Following the victory of the referendum in the canton of Girón, Yaku Pérez called for a general referendum on mining activities in the province of Azuay. This question was submitted to the Constitutional Court, but after a hearing on the 17th of September 2019, this request has been rejected. 

Pérez clearly expressed his dissatisfaction with the nature of the hearing. According to him, the President of the Court must hold a public hearing before taking a decision, as is customary in constitutional matters. “We want a public hearing so that we can look the judges in the eye and speak from the heart. To demonstrate in a factual and legal way the need for a public consultation,” according to Pérez.

Demonstration in front of Constitutional Court in Quito, 17 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Moreover, there is a conflict of interests within the Court. One of the constitutional judges, Dr. Ramiro Avila Santamaria, was not allowed to take part in the hearing because of earlier statements against extractivism. Other judges, who clearly have ties with the mining sector, were allowed to participate. Judge Carmen Corral is a lawyer at Solines Asociados, a law firm that provides advice and support to mining companies. Another judge, Hilda Nugues, is a member of the mediation committee of the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, which has spoken out against the referendum. 

There is clearly a lot of pressure from the national government and the large multinationals. There is great concern about what happened in Girón and fear about the outcome of such referendum at provincial and national level.

'SOMOS AGUA', demonstrators from Azuay in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Campaign against Yaku Pérez 

It was no coincidence that on the same day as the hearing, the pro-mining sector distributed a campaign on Twitter in which they attacked Yaku Pérez. 

They claimed that Pérez would have had mining concessions in the period 1999-2000 because his name was found in the mining register. 

Yaku Pérez disclaimed this argument. At the time, as a lawyer, he would have signed documents for the extraction of sand and stones for construction works in the province. This type of mining also is registered, but it doesn’t concern metal mining.

The battle continues 

Following the negative decision of the Constitutional Court, Pérez announced that he would step up the resistance and open a wider door by organizing a referendum at national level. 

The Ecuadorian Constitution recognizes the Consulta Popular as a legal citizens’ initiative. However, the mining industry and the Ecuadorian government argue that local consultations on mining cannot take place because the natural resources in the subsoil are a matter of national concern. 

'SOMOS AGUA', demonstrators from Azuay in Quito, 16 September 2019 © Iván Castaneira

Moreover, the constitution states that the powers of various policy bodies are not exclusive, but competitive. “You may be the owner of what is in the subsoil, but you have to pass over the soil,” says lawyer Verónica Potes, expert in environmental law and human rights. 

“It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath”, says Yaku Pérez, “There aren’t many of us, but we have the truth, the reason and the legitimacy to our advantage. We continue the resistance and if necessary, we will denounce this issue before the international courts.” 

New report: A just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition

Daniela Marques Branco | Mining, News, Publications, Report

War on Want and London Mining Network, supported by the Yes to Life, No to Mining network, have launched a new report: Post-Extractivist_Transition

A just(ice) transition is a post-extractive transition

Centering the extractive frontier in climate justice

While the global majority disproportionately suffer the impacts of the climate crisis and the extractivist model, the Global North’s legacy of colonialism, the excess of the world’s wealthiest, and the power of large corporations are responsible for these interrelated crises.

The climate change mitigation commitments thus far made by countries in the Global North are wholly insufficient; not only in terms of emissions reductions, but in their failure to address the root causes of the crisis – systemic and intersecting inequalities and injustices. This failure to take inequality and injustice seriously can be seen in even the most ambitious models of climate mitigation.

This report sets out to explore the social and ecological implications of those models with a focus on metal mining, in six sections:

  • Climate justice, just(ice) transition locates the report’s contributions within the broader struggle for climate and environmental justice, explains the reasoning for the report’s focus on mining and emphasizes the social dimension of energy transitions.
  • Extractivism in the decades to come discusses projections for total resource extraction over the next four decades and raises concerns about the interconnected ecological impacts of increased resource extraction.
  • The transition-mining nexus section places in perspective the significance of renewable energy technologies in driving demand, by examining the share of critical metal end-uses that renewable energy technologies account for relative to other end-uses.
  • Greenwashing, political will and investment trends expose how the mining industry is attracting investment and justifying new projects by citing projected critical metals demand and framing itself as a key actor in the transition.
  • Metal mining as a driver of socioenvironmental conflict offers a sense of the systemic and global nature of the social and ecological impacts of metal mining.
  • Moving beyond extractivism offers a sense of possibility in suggesting different ways forward, by addressing both the material and political challenges to a postextractivist transition.

 

This report finds that:

  • Current models project that as fossil fuels become less prominent in the generation of energy, metalintensive technologies will replace them. The assertion that economic growth can be decoupled, in absolute terms, from environmental and social impact is deeply flawed.
  • Central to these models is the unquestioned acceptance that economic growth in the Global North will continue unchanged, and as such, will perpetuate global and local inequalities and drive the demand for energy, metals, minerals and biomass further beyond the already breached capacity of the biosphere.
  • The assumption that economic growth is a valuable indicator of wellbeing must be challenged. Scarcity is the result of inequality, not a lack of productive capacity. Redistribution is the answer to both social and economic injustice and the threat that extractivism and climate breakdown pose.
  • Reducing fossil fuel energy dependence on its own is not a sufficient response to the intersecting socio-ecological crises, the extractivist model as a whole must be challenged.
  • There is a need to address the extractivist model because mineral, metal and biomass extraction threaten frontline communities and the interconnected ecologies that sustain life and wellbeing.
  • This need is particularly urgent because the mining industry is driving a new greenwashing narrative by claiming that vast quantities of metals will be needed to meet the material demands of renewable energy technologies.
  • This greenwashing narrative serves to obscure and justify the inherently harmful nature of extractivist mining. International financial institutions and sectors of civil society that have embraced these assumptions are complicit in the mining industry’s greenwashing efforts.
  • Increased investment and political will for large-scale mineral and metal extraction is not an inevitable consequence of the transition, it is one of the fundamental contradictions within a vision of climate change mitigation which fails to understand extractivism as a model fundamentally rooted in injustice.
  • Around the world, frontline communities are pushing back the expansion of extractivism and offering solutions to social and ecological injustice. But unfortunately, their voices, demands and visions are far too often absent in climate policy and campaigning spaces and agendas.
  • Justice and equity need to be understood as cross-cutting issues that touch every aspect of the transition. These principles are fully compatible with ecological wellbeing and mutually enhance one another. Increasing access to energy, food and public services goes hand-in-hand with reducing excess consumption through processes of redistribution. The solutions are fundamentally social; technical fixes and increases in efficiency do not bring about justice or ecological wellbeing on their own.

Mines & Territory, May 2019

Laura Garcia | Colombia, Mines&Territory, Mining

MONTHLY ONLINE REVIEW ON EXTRACTIVIST ISSUES IN COLOMBIA

ISSUE 05
May 2019

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

Download Mines & Territory, May 2019 here.

MINES & TERRITORY

May 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 ans Spanish so that the information is accessible to anyone interested and raises awareness internationally to the current eco-socio realities in Colombia.

Terrorist attack against Francia Márquez and other leaders of black communities in Northern Cauca

France Márquez Mina, social leader in the Cauca province and winner in 2018 of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, also called the environmental Nobel Prize, denounced on May 4th that strangers opened fire on her while she was accompanied by several colleagues preparing a meeting with the National government. Although she got out unharmed, two of her escorts got injured in the attack.

Recognized internationally for her tireless fight against the exploitation of gold in the area of the Ovejas River in the municipality of Suarez, Cauca, where she is originally from, Francia managed through a tutelage action in 2009 that the Constitutional Court removed the mining titles which were owned by the multinational AngloGold Ashanti. From that moment onwards she has been receiving all kinds of threats for which she was left with no other choice than leaving her territory in 2014.

The struggle for the preservation of the environment has led to an unequal dispute between the environmental groups of the country, which generate public spaces to visualize the environmental problems in mining zones, and groups outside of the law that control illegal exploitation and drug trafficking using violent methods of intimidation.

Two days after the attack, Victor Hugo Moreno, president of the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca, one of the people who were present on the same spot when they tried to assassinate Francia, received a message on his cell phone that accentuated once again the terror in the area. : “(…) this Saturday was only the beginning of what will happen to all of you; next time all members of this organization will die (…) and all those who closed the humanitarian path in the so-called ‘minga’, your time has come, niggers… (…) “.


Sources: PULZO ‘Colombia es el tercer país donde más se asesinan defensores del medio ambiente’; CONTAGIORADIO ‘Atentan contra lideresa Francia Márquez’.

 

Members of Cosajuca and the Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida threatened again by Águilas Negras

On March 26th, 2017, the consulta popular took place in Cajamarca, Tolima, where 97% of the votes said NO to mining activities within the municipality. This decision halted the arrival of the mega mining project La Colosa, the open pit gold mine that was supposed to be the largest one in Latin America. As a result of  this popular referendum, the social and environmental leaders who promoted it suffered serious stigmatizations by local territorial entities, government sectors and companies with an interest in the territory, stigmatizations that are becoming stronger and put defenders at risk.

On May 14th some members of organizations such as Cosajuca, the Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida and Conciencia Campesina received an email with a message that more or less announced that the time had come to “clean the country from all those who claim themselves as environmentalists and defenders of Cajamarca but who actually only impede its development and take refuge in NGOs to fill their pockets. ” The shippers of the threat were identified as ‘Águilas Negras Tolima’.

The members of Cosajuca and the Environmental Committee, two allied organizations of Catapa in Colombia, denounced the threats and expressed that the message evidences a clear relationship between political and business interests on the one hand, and the armed groups behind the threats on the other hand. Apart from demanding respect for the autonomy of the territories, they also express that the authorities must provide all the necessary guarantees that allow the integrity of all members of the affected social and environmental organizations and their families.


Source: FACEBOOK COSAJUCA’/photos/a.319407811806631/689982171415858/’; TWITTER ‘/CSPP_/status/1131597211966562310?s=19’.

 

Another law proposal by the Duque administration aims at making it easier for mining companies to access natural resources

Next July, the Duque administration intends to present a law that would regulate the Coordination and Concurrence procedure, which has mainly been built by the mining sector itself. This occurs after the Constitutional Court granted multinationals an easier access to the exploitation of natural resources in the subsoil and after it took away the veto power of consultas populares over these projects.

Juan Camilo Nariño, CEO of the Colombian Mining Association (ACM), suggested that the country has made progress in jurisprudential matters, which will give more certainty to the mining sector. “This precision and clarity generates greater investment and tranquility to the extractive industry and its investors. The decisions issued by the Constitutional Court between December and January make it clear that the territorial entities cannot prohibit mining through the mechanisms of citizen participation anymore, as they did before with popular referenda or municipal agreements. ”

Likewise, he claimed that the National Development Plan (PND for its Spanish acronym) will allow to consolidate small and medium mining in the country through a process of formalization, and that he’s feeling strong about the reforms of the General System of Royalties (SGR for its Spanish acronym).

The CEO clarifies: “It is fundamental for this sector to modify the current SGR since it will end up benefiting several fronts. Firstly, it balances local public discussions. Secondly, it makes the inhabitants of the mining municipalities feel the economic benefit thanks to the development of the extractive industries which operate in their territories. And thirdly, it simplifies a system with complex laws which are not allowing municipalities to access their resources easily. ”

Piedad Córdoba Ruiz, in her column in ‘Las2Orillas’, expressed her frustration over the proposed law which, according to her, only seeks to favor the extractive and multinational companies that are polluting the environment: “The Court gave free access to the resources of the subsoil, the popular referenda lost their veto power and now they come up with this new regulatory law of Coordination and Concurrence which goes hand in hand with the mining sector. It literally feels like we’re living in a mining dictatorship governed by multinationals.”


Sources: LAS2ORILLAS ‘El medio ambiente minado’; PORTAFOLIO: ‘Alistan ley que espanta el fantasma de las consultas populares mineras’.

 

What the march for the Páramo of Santurbán in the province of Santander revealed

On Sunday, May 10th, tens of thousands of people marched in Bucaramanga for the protection of the páramo of Santurbán and against the project of the mining company Minesa. Minesa plans to extract over nine million ounces of gold in the next 25 years in the vicinity of this fragile ecosystem which supplies water for about 2 million inhabitants.

The mobilization coincided with the re-delimitation of the páramo that the Ministry of Environment was applying by order of the Constitutional Court, and with the application of the environmental license that the mining company is seeking for, which would give the project a green light.

The march took place two weeks after videos got leaked from one of the private meetings of the mining company, in which its president Santiago Urdinola made it clear that relations with the community inside and outside of the area are not within their priorities. (For more information, read M&T April)

The dispute over mining in the páramo of Santurbán has now been going on for almost a decade. In 2011, the first demonstrations took place. One of the main questions in the preview of this march addressed the question whether it would be able to match the march of 2017 which mobilized around 50 thousand people. While there are no precise figures of how many people marched on the streets, the calculations point out that the number of people who attended was several thousand more than a year and a half ago.

La Silla Vacía, a regional newspaper, reviewed in detail the 2,800 pages that comprise the structural chapters of the study which proposes the exploitation of the large-scale underground mine for 25 years. They summarized it in seven key factors and impacts that Minesa will leave behind in the páramo of Santurbán:

  1. In some points, the area of ​​influence of the project is only 20 meters below the current páramo frontier.
  2. The mine will work 24/7 for 25 years.
  3. It will most probably get rid of its pollutants on a stream that supplies the aqueduct of Bucaramanga.
  4. It will decrease flows in the basin of one of the rivers which provides water to the aqueduct.
  5. Heavy traffic will take over public roads and it is not clear if Minesa is willing to share the roads that would be built.
  6. The ground where the project will be built has actually no mining vocation.
  7. They must remove vegetation that as of now is forbidden to cut down.

Sources: LA SILLA VACIA ‘Siete impactos claves Minesa vecindad Santurbán’; LA SILLA VACIA ‘Lo reveló la marcha de Santurbán’; EL ESPECTADOR ‘Una nutrida marcha contra la minería en Santurbán’.

 

Yopal (province of Casanare) approves the prohibition of fracking in its municipality

With 11 positive votes, the Municipal Council of Yopal approved project 08 of 2019, “by means of which measures for the defense of the ecological and environmental heritage of the municipality of Yopal and other provisions are dictated.” It seeks to prohibit the exploitation of oil through fracking and is the first initiative of its kind that is presented in Colombia.

Nonetheless, the initiators clarified that this draft agreement does not intend to exclude Yopal from oil exploitation, but only seeks to prevent this fracking method that has been questioned a lot from being used in the municipality.

Many voices have risen in support of the initiative. As popular referenda have lost their strength, now the only expression of autonomy is left to the regions and municipalities. This expression of autonomy is needed in order to influence the development of their territory, against the increasingly voracious intervention of the national government, which takes away more and more independence in the management of their resources.

For more information, read our article on fracking in Colombia in the M&T April edition: ‘Comptroller warns that Colombia is not ready to fracking’


Fuentes: VIOLETA STEREO ‘Concejo de Yopal cierra el paso al fracking en el municipio’; CASANARE NOTICIAS ‘Aprueban prohibición del fracking en Yopal’.

 

New legal setback for AngloGold in Tolima

A judge in Ibagué filed the criminal proceeding against the director of Cortolima, Jorge Enrique Cardoso, and the head of the juridical office of that same entity, José Francisco Montufar, who had been denounced by the mining multinational Anglogold Ashanti for embezzlement of legal actions.

As stated by the investigating body, the two officials did not commit any crime when requesting, on March 11th 2013, the preventive suspension of the work that AngloGold Ashanti was carrying out in the village of Doima, municipality of Piedras. The Court archived the Prosecutor’s request because it did not find enough evidence to accuse the officials.

The mining company had requested an authorization to carry out hydrogeological works in order to prepare for the construction of an infrastructure related to the La Colosa project in Cajamarca, an application that was endorsed by Cortolima. However, the CEO of Cortolima explained that the multinational “cheated” on the corporation permit since it was only assigned to do a soil survey, while AngloGold was also executing totally different activities.

Cortolima received several complaints from the community about the machinery that had reached the municipality of Piedras and about the work they were doing. “We went to visit the place and saw that they had taken advantage of the forest, had adapted the Camao stream, they had installed machinery that is typically used for drilling groundwater exploitation, activities different from those they had communicated,” Cardoso said.


Source: EL OLFATO ‘Nuevo revés jurídico para AngloGold en el Tolima’.

 

Update Jericó: tension grows about large-scale mining in Jericó, Antioquia

Due to protests of the community, mining exploration procedure in Jericó is postponed

The mining company Quebradona, owned by the South African multinational AngloGold Ashanti, intended to install on May 13th a drilling platform to perform soil and geotechnical studies in order to develop its copper mine in the neighborhood  of Vallecitos-Palo Cabildo, belonging to the municipality of Jericó, in the southwest of the province Antioquia. The employees arrived accompanied by the police, the army and the Esmad (special forces).

People from the community, leaders of the municipal administration and leaders of environmental groups were present in the area to oppose the drilling of the mountain. Several dozens of peasants also arrived to confront what they considered an attack on their sovereignty, arguing that the company was committing a violation of the 10th municipal agreement of 2018, which establishes the prohibition of metallic mining activities in the municipality.

To avoid a confrontation of large proportions, mayor Jorge Pérez arrived at the site and spoke with the people in charge of the Quebradona mine so that they wouldn’t violate the orders given by the Municipal Council. This recommendation was finally accepted after more than three hours of discussion, consigning that the mining company should not continue its activities until the Court takes a final decision about the validity of the municipal agreement.

Mayor Jorge Pérez: “Duque has to review the true potential of the country.”

“The attitude of the mining multinational is regrettable, because they know very well that the agreement is still valid as we have not known any ruling of the Administrative Court of Antioquia yet. They did somehow invade the village with the Esmad, the police and the army. That’s not the way. These people are peasants, not criminals, ” argued the mayor.

Perez: “It is not easy because we find ourselves in notorious inferiority in this power struggle. We are a sixth category municipality where most of the citizens are against the mining plans. Above us, we’re facing the will of the mining secretariat of Antioquia which promotes mining, the ministry of mining, the National Mining Agency, etc. President Duque is deadly wrong when he says that the country’s only economic outlet is the exploitation of resources. He should better spend his time reviewing the true potential of the country. Take a look at the enormous potential for food production, biodiversity and tourism.
Jericó is currently standing in a legal framework, we rely on our 010 municipal agreement; we hope that if one day all these legal forms of opposition are exhausted, all Colombians will rise up to protect their territories.”

Meanwhile, it’s known that in the coming month AGA will apply for its environmental license to step up the project, which increases the tense mood of the inhabitants as most of them refuse any kind of drilling in their territory.

Former President Álvaro Uribe against the project

The upcoming months are uncertain, because there a lot of different interest which have been moving local politics. The southwest of Antioquia is one of the spoils of the Democratic Center, a party that has never lost any election in the area and where President Iván Duque swept its campaign. And as if that wasn’t enough, this is the region were former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez was born.

Right in the middle of this dispute, President Uribe tweeted on April 7th a 13-minute video in which he explains why, according to his vision, mining should not take place in Jericó. Uribe used among others the following words: “Jericó y Suroeste, preserve and promote green projects, no to mining.” Quite a surprise for his followers, because it was the Uribe government that granted the largest amount of mining licenses in the history of Colombia.

Judge of Medellin supports municipal agreement

A judge in Medellín considered that he could not implement any precautionary measures to suspend the administrative act of the municipal council – which established a prohibition on mining in defense of the ecological and cultural heritage of the municipality of Jericó – as requested by the company AngloGold.

The judge reminded judicial decisions in which “the constitutional possibility held by the Municipal Councils to dictate the necessary rules for the control, preservation and defense of the ecological and cultural heritage of the municipality” have been confirmed.


Sources: SEMANA ‘Crece la tensión por minería a gran escala en Jericó, Antioquia’, CONTAGIORADIO ‘AngloGold Ashanti desconoce el acuerdo municipal que prohibe la minería’; EL COLOMBIANO ‘Exploración minera en Jericó se posterga’; EL TIEMPO ‘Choque entre Comfama y Anglo Gold Ashanti por mina en Jericó; LA REPÚBLICA ‘Anglo Gold pierde otra batalla en el proyecto minero de Quebradona’.

From the polls to the tribunal: The farmers of Cajamarca suing mining multinational Angolgold Ashanti

Karlijn Van den Broeck | Colombia, Mining, News

From the polls to the tribunal: The farmers of Cajamarca suing mining multinational Angolgold Ashanti

Cajamarca, Colombia
Karlijn Van den Broek, 5 June 2019

The farming community that voted out multinational Anglogold Ashanti of their territory two years ago, is now taking the fight to court.

In March 2017, the people of Cajamarca voted against mining in their region in a Consulta Popular (popular referendum). Two years later the same community is going to court to continue their fight for Anglogold Ashanti still owns various mining concessions in the region. And to ensure their absence for once and for all, the farmers are suing the company and the National Mining Agency to nullify the still existing mining concessions.

In Cajamarca, all seems quiet and peaceful. Farmers on the hill work their land, no machinery involved. It is a hard job, but they would not trade it for the world. The fertile soil of Cajamarca makes it a very rewarding region for farming: ‘Anything grows in Cajamarca.’

Looking over Cajamarca, the impressive waterfall Chorros Blancos provides water for the citizens of the village center. Many other small water springs guarantee water to the farming families’ right to their land. The Wax Palms Forest and the Machin Volcano in Toche guard Cajamarca on the one side, and on the other side the Páramo of Anaime can be found. If you ask the citizens, they will tell you they are proud to live in Cajamarca, that this land is incredibly beautiful and precious. And any visitor would have to agree with them.

However, the people of Cajamarca have struggled a lot to get where they are today. From the beginning of the settlement, violence has been brought to the region, from colonization to the period of violencia and later the armed conflict. When after hundreds of years of war, Colombia, and thus Cajamarca, was finally beginning a new era of ‘peace’, it was only for a short time until a new threat arrived in Cajamarca: Extractivism.

More than ten years ago, the Colombian government gave mining concessions to the South-African gold mining multinational Anglogold Ashanti, who with their La Colosa mining project would open the biggest open pit mine in Latin America.

The village however, came together to defend their farming lands, their precious water sources and the future of their children. On the 26th of March 2017, Cajamarca organised a Consulta Popular, a binding mechanism of public participation stated by the Colombian constitution, where 98% of voters voted against mega mining in their territories.

The result of the Consulta Popular, a Cajamarca free of mining activities, was later established in a municipal agreement.

The decision of the people of Cajamarca is legally binding and thus has to be respected by both the multinational as the national government.

However, the National Mining Agency of Colombia has continued administrative actions regarding the existing mining concessions, without consulting nor informing the community.

There are still three current mining concessions in the municipality of Cajamarca. Therefore, the decision of the people of Cajamarca has neither been respected nor implemented until now.

The farmers of Cajamarca are demanding the nullification of the three current mining concessions in the municipality. They invoke the legal principle of objeto illicit sobreviniente: the mining concessions have to cease to exist since they are incompatible with the choice of the community of Cajamarca to prohibit mining. Following Colombian law, a contract needs to have an object that complies with the legal and constitutional requirements. The subject of the mining concessions is illicit and impossible to accomplish. The subject was licit when the concessions were granted, yet, after the consulta popular, it is no longer the case.

With the legal action the farmers of Cajamarca hope to finally achieve the full respect and execution of the decision that the community took in March, 2017, prohibiting mining in their region.

Suing a multinational is not for the light hearted. In Colombia, environmental defenders that are struggling to remain in their lands despite of corporate interests, have been the target of threats, human rights violations and killings. Moreover, the legal road is always a very long and tiring one. Nevertheless, the community of Cajamarca knows what they want: A healthy and thriving farming community, with clean waters and lush mountains. This court case, just like the countless manifestations and the consulta popular before them, is the people of Cajamarca shouting:

“El Agua vale mas que el oro, Anglogold Ashanti Fuera del Pais”

Official communiqué to the public opinion legal action defending the ‘consulta popular’ of Cajamarca

Laura Garcia | Colombia, Consulta popular, Mining, News

Official communiqué to the public opinion legal action defending the 'consulta popular' of Cajamarca

Today, Wednesday the 5th of June 2019, the corporation ‘Cajamarca Despensa Hídrica y Agrícola’, promotor of the Consulta Popular in Cajamarca, represented by the Center of Studies for Social Justice ‘Tierra Digna’, filed an absolute nullity claim against the National Mining Agency of Colombia and the company Anglo Gold Ashanti before the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to declare the nullity of (3) three mining concession contracts registered in 2007, which are still in force in the region of Cajamarca. The concessions should be nullified on the ground of violating the superior mandate expressed through the Consulta Popular (Popular Referendum) of the 26th of March 2017, in which 97% of the citizens of Cajamarca prohibited mining activities in their territory.

At the time the mining concession contracts were signed it was licit to explore and exploit minerals in Cajamarca. However, this legal landscape changed due to the incorporation of a new rule to the legal system, namely the Consulta Popular, which transformed a former lawful action (to explore and exploit minerals) to unlawful. Consequently, there should not be any mining contracts in Cajamarca at present.

The Consulta Popular of Cajamarca was a citizen initiative, in which the community, using their democratic rights, mobilized for the protection of its sovereignty and peasant life. The Consulta Popular complied with all the legal and constitutional requirements, it is now definite and, therefore, its results have mandatory effects. This legal action should be understood as the coming together of the struggles of the peasants of Cajamarca in defense of their land, but also as the beginning of a new phase that seeks to recognize the legal effects of the implementation of Consultas Populares that have been made throughout the country.

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