June 9, 2008

National and International Agro-mining Caravan

Written by Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad - Colombia. Originally published in www.redcolombia.org, 5 September, 2007
Translated by Micheal O Tuathail, La Chiva

The agro-mining caravan, composed of national and international delegations, finished its 17-day journey through South Bolívar, Chocó, Riseralda, Cauca, and Nariño.

In each of its stages, the precarious conditions of small miners became evermore clear. The State has completely abandoned its role in supporting this form of productive activity, preferring to extend its support to foreign companies and renouncing, for once and for all, a source of income and sovereignty for the country.

In addition to this abandonment, an accusation campaign was observed, directed against small-scale mining for environmental damages, a campaign that seeks to end and deem illegal this form of survival for thousands of Colombian families.

The communities reject these accusations insofar as they are:

1. Aids for the influx of the multinationals, in particular AngloGold Ashanti, considered one of the principal gold producers in the world, with operations in Africa, the Americas, Australia, and its Colombian affiliate, Kedahda S.A. There are various international mining sector companies that have arrived in Colombia with modern technology. The list is long and includes European, South African, and Canadian companies, such as Greystar Resources, with the Angostura gold project in Vetas and California (Santander). There is also Bullet in Zaragoza (Antioquia), CVS Exploration, which deals mainly in finding new deposits, and Kedahda, which develops studies in different gold-rich areas in the country using geo-chemical exploration. It is also necessary to mention Barrick Gold Corp, Río Tinto Limited, Cambridge Mineral Resources, De Beira Goldfields, Colombia Goldfields, and Antofagasta among others.

2. Hypocritical, given that the principal cause of contamination by small mining is the lack of investment from the mining authority and the State. The few technological advances and measures to protect the environment are initiatives of the communities themselves.

3. Contradictory, based on the understanding that multinationals exploiting open-pit mines will have an impact one hundred times greater than the small miner.

It is also clear how the mining legislation (Law 685 of 2001) has been formulated not for the interests of the small miner but for grand scale exploitation. The reform of the mining codes presented by the government is in line with the logic of the Free Trade Agreement, and its objective is to relegate the small miner to illegality, allowing for sole exploitation by large multinational companies.

Accompanying all this, the state continues pursuing a practice of violent repression, murders, and judgment against those organizations and leaders opposed to forced exile or those who try to obtain titles for the lands they have worked for years, attempts that have been in vain, as the multinational Kedahda has often already made applications for those titles.

In every department, Kedahda’s applications have coincided with the militarization of territory, be it through the security forces of the State or through the emerging so-called gangs – Aguilas Negras and the Organización Nueva Generación – who, according to the accounts of the inhabitants of affected zones, are the same paramilitary groups who have supposedly demobilized.

Along the caravan’s path, we were met with a series of lies that personnel from the Kedahda company had spread throughout the mining communities in which the company has the intention to explore/exploit. One of these dealt with the supposed negotiations and agreement that Kedahda claims to have made with communities in other regions. In reality, many of these communities have never met with the company for any sort of dialogue. Those who have met with the company have resisted and been opposed to the entrance of the multinational.

Another identifying aspect is the fragmentation now within the organizations of the communities, generated through the buying of leaders and local administrators vis-à-vis the company’s (companies’) promises for the social welfare of the communities.

In South Bolívar, the interests of Kedahda came about through a military operation that began in early 2006. In the course of these actions, the public forces were responsible for the robbery of the goods of members of the local population, threats, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, and a strong defamation campaign against social organizations and their leaders, accusing them of being terrorists, gangsters, extortionists, and so on…

A petition, aimed at declaring the zone a special mining reserve and presented by social organizations in the region, was systematically ignored by the mining authority (in Cartagena, some possible mining zones were suggested). Kedahda personnel and members of the public forces distributed, both within and outside the region, information about a supposed agreement between the Agromining Federation of South Bolívar, Fedeagromisbol, (which represents miners in the region) and the company. This information has been revealed as completely false.

In the Chocó, black and indigenous communities have also seen their ancestral territorial rights undermined in the interests of Kedahda. The communities have seen their collective land title applications rejected, putting them seven years behind, only to find out later that the multinational had also applied for exploration and exploitation permits in the same territory. Still, the presence of medium-scale mining in the hands of foreigners was proven. With heavy machinery, they are producing grave damage to the environment. Their presence seems to be authorized by the local administration, in spite of the necessary prior consultation of black and indigenous communities in the region. The Colombian State has left the region totally abandoned to the extent that it is one of the poorest regions in the country. Nonetheless, the only obvious state investment in the region is in the military form.

In Riseralda, right to the recognition of special mining reserves of mining associations have been ignored. Only 9% of their applications have been accepted.

The local administration, rather than promoting the development of small mining, has invested hundreds of millions in a plant for mining extraction, which currently is in a state of abandon.

In 2003, with the then recent arrival of Kedahda in the region, massive and arbitrary detentions took place, affecting the capacity for communities’ self-determination, communities who also face the invasion of Kedahda.

In Cauca, since the end of 2006, Kedahda has pressured communities to allow its entry to the region. (Formerly) Facing a negative reaction from the communities to its entrance, many leaders have been threatened. Three months ago, paramilitary groups, identifying themselves as the Aguilas Negras, arrived in the region.

In Nariño, the communities have recently discovered the scale of Kedahda’s applications in their territory, applications made for areas where the high mountain battalion of the National Army works together with the paramilitary group known as the AUC-Organización Nueva Generación.

After the exchanges that took place among the different communities that participated in the Caravan, the necessity and urgency became clear for the construction of alternative mining legislation as well as its positioning across the mobilization.

Right now, a campaign aimed at denouncing the grave damages Kedahda (and others) have caused in the country is being planned without the approval of the state and its public and paramilitary forces.

The caravan continues in Colombia and in the whole world…
For the defense of life and permanence in the territory

National and International Agro-mining Caravan

Bogotá, September 5, 2007.

redher@redcolombia.org redeuropea@redcolombia.org
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