Colombian Prosecutor calls for mining concessions to be revokedPublished by MAC on 2011-07-25
Source: Colombia Reports (2011-07-13)
But what's the real story?
Behind a simple announcement, made in Colombia earlier this month, lies a complex tale of maneouvres between government officials, a mining company, an NGO, and Indigenous groups within the country's Amazon basin.
In this special report, MAC editors try to unravel the strands.
A Park, a public prosecutor, Colombian communities - and a company called Cosigo
According to press reports, a Colombia Public Prosecutor has demanded the revocation of a mining concession, granted to a small Canadian company, Cosigo Resources, in the Colombian Amazon near the border with Brazil.
A state official indicates that the concession overlaps with the Yaigojé Apaporis National Park in the department of Vaupés.
According to a report released this week by the Colombian Foundation Gaia Amazonas, the Public Prosecutor has also asked for a disciplinary process to be opened against eight public officials from the Institute of Geology and Mines (INGEOMINAS) who granted the concession two days after the creation of the park.
Cosigo Resources, however, is backing a group of indigenous communities who say the park proposal was not consulted with them. Other recent reports raise questions as to what lengths this company might be going in order to advance its own interests.
According to highly regarded Colombian journalist and sociologist, Alfredo Molano-Bravo, indigenous communities in the department of Vaupés have long resisted state presence in their territory.
In 2008, says Molan-Bravo, these communities formed the Association of Indigenous Communities of Yaigojé Apaporis (ACIYA) and sought to create the national park as a means to ensure stronger state safeguards against the encroachment of coca, alcohol and mining. “White ills are cured with white remedies,” they said. See: http://www.elespectador.com/impreso/nacional/articulo-275132-yaigoje-apaporis]
From Molano-Bravo's perspective, the company then promoted efforts to have the park annulled, as well as to divide the indigenous leadership. He says Cosigo backed the creation of a parallel indigenous organization and wooed its members with trips to Bogotá.
The Gaia Amazonas Foundation states that it has accompanied indigenous communities along the lower Apoporis river for 15 years, and was responding to a request from ACIYA to help provide legal support and facilitate discussions in Bogotá leading to the creation of Yaigojé Apaporis National Park.
Gaia Amazonas notes that, when the park was about to be created, all indigenous communities in the area were represented by ACIYA.
The Association of Indigenous Communities of Tairara and Vaupés (ACITAVA) only emerged later. See: http://www.gaiaamazonas.org/index.php/es/component/content/article/2175-articulos/96-yaigoje-apaporis-un-parque-en-peligro-por-el-oro
The Foundation's report describes the consultation process that took place in July 2009 and which led to the park's creation - it was fully documented on film. A representative of ACIYA notes that conditions for the park's creation included respect for the way of life of indigenous communities and that future decisions about the park's management would be consulted.
Cosigo Resources, however, was already working in the area. According to the Director of National Parks (cited in the report) the company held events in parallel with the consultation process to establish the park and, as a result, some communities did not attend, although they were reportedly invited.
Now ACITAVA, with backing from Cosigo, has placed a lawsuit before the Colombian Constitutional Court questioning the park.
On 15 June, says Gaia Amazonas, the non-indigenous legal representative of ACITAVA held a press conference at Hotel Radisson in Bogotá, accompanied by Cosigo Resources, in which they argued that the park was not properly subject to consultation with ACITAVA and that it "interrupts [the communities] territory, taking away their autonomy".
If the company-backed association succeeds in having the park overturned, safeguards against mining in this area will be weakened.
Although indigenous communities must be consulted over activities taking place on their territories, the state still assumes ownership over subsoil resources. Mining in Colombia is only expressly prohibited in certain areas, such as national parks.
Cosigo Resources reportedly has 23 requests for mining concessions in the area which could proceed should the status of the park be successfully thrown into doubt.
Meanwhile the Public Prosecutor's order suggests that the irregularities around the company's concession and INGEOMINAS' decisions to date should be further scrutinised.
IG wants to reverse Canadian mining license in national park
By Matt Snyder
13 July 2011
A Colombian Inspector General official requested the removal of a Canadian company's mining license Wednesday to protect a natural park, Caracol Radio reported.
Special Prosecutor for Environmental and Agricultural Affairs Oscar Navas requested that Canadian mining company Cosigo's right to mine in the Yaigoje-Apaporis area in sourthern Colombia be withdrawn as the area has been declared a national park and the mining license was issued after this declaration.
Navas further argued that existing legeslation permits the allocation of mining rights within the national park system.
Yaigoje-Apaporis park is more than 2.6 million acres in size and straddles the Amazonas and Vaupes departments of Colombia. The park features a collection of rivers and lakes that are home to manatees and freshwater dolphins. The park also contains many sites that are sacred to local indigenous peoples.