Colombia: Greystar's public hearing goes aheadPublished by MAC on 2010-12-06
Source: Marketwire, statement
But the public isn't allowed to properly participate
Vancouver-based Greystar reports that a public hearing took place to consider the Environmental Impact Study for its controversial Angostura project.
However, Colombian deputy, Roberto Schmalbach, reports that there was a lack of sufficient guarantees to ensure broad participation for the event.
According to the representative of the Polo Democratico Party, 250 people from the Municipality of Bucaramanga planning to attend the hearing, but had to turn back due to inclement conditions.
According to the same report, state officials denied them the opportunity to have the hearing postponed.
Serious concern has been raised over the impacts that the Angostura project would have on the sensitive paramo ecosystem in northeastern Colombia, which helps sustain water resources serving rural communities and which contributes to water supply for the city of Bucaramanga.
In February 2010, Colombia's Ministry of Housing and Territorial Development ordered the company to submit a new environmental impact assessment that would bring the project in line with a newly reformed mining code.
The code prohibits mining at 3,200 meters above sea level.
Greystar appealed the decision, hoping that it would be "grandfathered" into the new regulations.
For previous story, see: Greystar says Colombia accepts its gold mine appeal
Greystar Announces Completion of Angostura Project Public Hearing
29 November 2010
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Greystar Resources Ltd. (the "Company") is pleased to announce that the Public Hearing to consider the Company's Angostura Project Environmental Impact Study ("EIS") was held on November 21st, 2010 in California, Santander, the community nearest to the project. The Public Hearing is part of the process for obtaining the Environmental License for the Angostura Project which, as regulated by law, allows interested parties to request such a hearing thereby providing interested stakeholders a platform to voice their opinions.
Steve Kesler, President and CEO of Greystar commented, "We are very pleased that the Public Hearing was held in an atmosphere of complete calm, civility and with mutual respect given to those wishing to voice opposing opinions. It was attended by more than 1,300 people, including those that in their official condition had a right to participate and lasted for 9 hours but the representatives of the petitioners for the Public Hearing, who are opposed to the project, elected not to participate.
"The forum gave the people of Santander, and particularly the residents of the potentially impacted communities (California, Vetas, Surata, Matanza, Berlin, and Charta), the opportunity to express their views about the development of the Angostura project. There was strong support for the project, and the opportunities it would bring, not just for California, but for Santander and the country as a whole. The Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development (MAVDT) has five days from the Public Hearing to prepare the minutes of the meeting, following which the EIS review will continue. Greystar will continue to liaise with the MAVDT on the EIS review to ensure that they have all the information needed to take a decision on the environmental license."
Greystar follows a policy of complete transparency and frankness, and has stressed its commitment to create a lasting and positive contribution toward sustainable development through environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and well-being of the region. We are committed to establishing a biodiversity offset program that ensures no net loss of biodiversity.
"We will utilize leading technology to minimize water use and to ensure there is no impact on water supply or quality to downstream users. Greystar is also a signatory of the International Cyanide Management Code. Citizen participation has been invited in the environmental monitoring of our operation".
Lack of guarantees for public hearing regarding open-put mining project in the páramo of Santurbán
Office of Deputy Roberto Schmalbach press release
21 November 2010
Bucaramanga - More than 250 people representing the Committee in Defense of Water and the Páramo of Santurbán tried to attend a public hearing in the municipality of California regarding Greystar Resources' open-pit mining project. Weather conditions, however, impeded normal passage of vehicles along the Matanza roadway and prevented the community from arriving at their destination on time, despite having set out at four in the morning.
As a result, they sent a commission made up of Florentino González (President of the Engineers' Society), Orlando Beltrán (representative of environmental organizations), Mauricio Meza, Rafael Ovalle (representative of the Central Workers' Union (CUT) and member of the Union of Aqueduct Workers of Bucaramanga) and Roberto Schmalbach (Deputy of the Departmental Assembly). This commission attested to the difficulties encountered, which constitute a lack of assurance that the public hearing could be carried out adequately.
Given the lack of assurance for the public hearing to take place, the community of the Metropolitan Area of Bucaramanga, which had sent 8 busloads of people who ultimately could not reach their destination also due to a blockage along the roadway, requested that the hearing be postponed in order to ensure adequate conditions for everyone involved.
The commission met with the Regional Agricultural Attorney and with the representative of the Ministry of Housing and Environment (MVMA) at the police station in the municipality of California, where they formally requested that the MVMA relocate the hearing, explaining that one of the communities directly affected by the project could not have their voices heard without the full presence of their representatives in the hearing. When the ministerial representative denied their request, insisting that the public hearing go forward under the given conditions, the commission turned back after reiterating the lack of guarantees for normal proceedings to take place.
The Committee for the Defense of Water and Páramo of Santurbán contested today's hearing and decided to solicit another public hearing in order to show that the environmental license that Greystar has requested is illegal given that the proposed project lies within the páramo (high wetlands) that would affect the sources of water that service the aqueduct for the Metropolitan Area of Bucaramanga.
It is worth noting that neither the Minister nor the Vice Minister of Environment were present at the public hearing in the municipality of California and that the hearing was presided over by the Director of Licenses for the ministry. Given this, along with the campaign that Greystar has unleashed to try to prevent the media from publishing anything contrary to the company's interests, the Committee for the Defense of Water and Páramo of Santurban plans to participate actively in forums, hearings and social demonstrations in defense of water for the residents of Santander.
Similarly, the committee invites the communities of Bucaramanga, Girón, Floridablanca and Piedecuesta to support democratic initiatives for the right to water and the protection of the sources of water that ensure it.
Girón municipal council proposes a strong NO to open-pit mining in the páramo of Santurban
Girón, Santander, Colombia,
20 November 2010
The Girón Municipal Council asks environmental authorities not to approve the environmental licence for Greystar Resources' mining project and others that are in process.
The recommendation pertains to the possible impacts on available water supplies. Engineer Germán Augusto Figueroa Galvis, former manager of the Aqueduct for the Metropolitan Area of Bucaramanga, indicates, "The project represents a real threat to the city's water supply, given the possible negative effects on the quantity and quality of water in streams and lagoons that supply the Vetas River watershed, tributary of the Suratá River, and responsible for 17% to 50% of the potable water supply for over one million residents of Bucaramanga, Florida and Girón, particularly in dry periods, which arise as a result of climate change during severe weather occurrences such as El Niño."
"Mining should not be permitted in this area given the impacts on the lagoons, the alteration of aquifers, contamination with cyanide and heavy metals, contamination with particulate matter from blasting, alterations in the landscape and destruction of soils, vegetation and wildlife, all associated with large scale mining projects, which also deteriorate hydrological resources in their area of influence."
In the same way, the municipal council of Girón points out that if the environmental licence is granted to Greystar Resources, it would be a violation of Article 1, section 5, under the General Environmental Principles in Law 99 from 1993, which establish, "Regarding the use of hydrological resources, human consumption takes priority over any other use." This principle is ratified in Decree 1729 from 2002 (Watersheds) which states in Article 4, "Regarding the use of hydrological resources, human consumption takes priority over any other use."
Similarly, this corporation considers that the precautionary principle, enshrined in Article 1, section 6, under the General Environmental Principles of Law 99, in which "the environmental authorities and individuals should apply the precautionary principle according to which, when there exists a risk of severe and irreversible damage, lack of absolute scientific certainty should not be used to postpone the adoption of effective measures to avoid environmental degradation." In other words, the law establishes that given the possibility of severe damages, complete scientific certainty is not a prerequisite to take measures to avoid disaster.
Furthermore, according to Law 1382 from 2010 (Article 3), which reformed the Mining Code, mining is prohibited within "national natural parks, protected forest reserves and páramo ecosystems," among others. As a result, to date there is no legal basis upon which to grant environmental licences to mining projects situated within the páramo. This was ratified by the Minister of Environment during the debate which took place within the National Senate in October.
Greystar Resources proposes to develop its project in an area which includes 456 hectares of páramo, 119 hectares of subpáramo and 511 hectares of Andean forest, for a total of 1,086 hectares, to which another 325 hectares around the perimeter should be added for a grand total of 1,411 hectares that would be affected by mining, a statistic which has been acknowledged by the mining company directors.
The Council forewarns that if the Ministry of the Environment were to approve the environmental licence for Greystar that it would be in contradiction with itself, given that it initially returned the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to the company which was then resubmitted without the corrections that the environmental authority requested, in which Greystar Resources was ordered to relocate its project below 3,200 meters above sea level.
The Alexander Von Humboldt's Páramo Line, developed by the CDMB (the Autonomous Regional Corporation for the Defence of the Bucaramanga Plateau), determines that the main part of the project is located above 3,000 meters above sea level. Greystar Resources itself has acknowledged this, stating that "50% of the project is in the páramo," (Revista 14.6, October 11th 2010).
The municipal council urges that Santurban be declared a natural reserve with the corresponding environmental protection, and that ongoing support be provided to the mining companies such that principles of so-called green mining be applied, which ensure legal mechanisms for economic compensation for conservation and care of renewable natural resources in the region and that development projects related to agriculture and ecological tourism be promoted.
The population of Girón remains highly concerned about this as long as its only source of potable water is at threat from this mining project.
Girón must ensure that this precious liquid reaches 23,600 homes with an estimated population of 162,000 inhabitants, of which 91% belong to the 1,2 and 3 stratum.
Once water is contaminated the costs for its decontamination will be born by the users.
This proposition was unanimously approved by the counsellors for San Juan Girón in session on November 12th 2010.