MAC: Mines and Communities

Colombian court orders miners to hand back land to indigenous peoples

Published by MAC on 2014-10-01
Source: Mining.com, Merco Times (2014-09-26)

Miners ordered to hand back land to natives in Colombia

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining

26 September 2014

A Colombian legal tribunal ordered 11 gold mining companies this week to stop operations in the northwest of the country and return the land to Embera Katio tribe, which used to live in the area.

The ruling, RCN reports, is the first of its kind in the South American nation. It restores a 50,000-hectare in the West coast Choco department to the about 7,300 Embera people, which were forced out over the past five years by illegal and violent armed groups.

The decision orders the National Mining Agency, in coordination with the military, to "remove people from outside the community who are carrying out mining activities within the reserve," a unit of Colombia's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a statement Thursday.

The ruling rescinds any titles and concessions to the area held by companies, include South Africa's AngloGold Ashanti, and local firms Exploraciones Choco Colombia, Gongora and El Molino.

According to the United Nations, the coal and gold-rich country has 87 native tribes, with a bit over 1.3 million members. They are said to be at risk of disappearing because of Colombia's half-century armed conflict between the government and the FARC, also known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions.

President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon said Thursday his government believes the country would soon be at peace. He has already made peace deals with the FARC and the National Liberation Army, another rebel group, his top political priority.

"If we achieve this -a goal that Colombians have unsuccessfully sought for so long - then there is hope for peace in any part of the world, despite how difficult things can seem right now," he said in a speech addressing the UN General Assembly.

Santos took the oath of office last month for a second four-year term vowing to finally end the conflict, after an election campaign widely viewed as a referendum on the peace process.


Colombian court orders mining companies to return land to aboriginal tribe

Colombian legal tribunal has ordered 11 companies to halt gold-mining operations in a 50,000-hectare reserve in the northwest of the country and return the land to the native tribe that previously lived there.

26 September 2014

The ruling calls the government to reinstate the Embera Katio's land rights and aid the tribe in their return to the area, including making security improvements The ruling calls the government to reinstate the Embera Katio's land rights and aid the tribe in their return to the area, including making security improvements

The ruling, the first of its kind in Colombia, restores the territory in Choco department to the 7,270-person Embera Katio tribe The ruling, the first of its kind in Colombia, restores the territory in Choco department to the 7,270-person Embera Katio tribe

Choco, located on the Pacific coast, is strategically valuable to drug traffickers, Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups Choco, located on the Pacific coast, is strategically valuable to drug traffickers, Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups

The ruling, the first of its kind in Colombia, restores the territory in Choco department to the 7,270-person Embera Katio tribe, which inhabited the area before it was forced out by mining activities and violent illegal armed groups.

Choco, located on the Pacific coast, is strategically valuable to drug traffickers, Marxist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups. The Embera Katio were victims of killings and forcible recruitment when they lived there.

"The natives who inhabited the reserve ... were forcibly displaced to large urban centers," reads the ruling.

The government awarded mining concessions in the Bagado municipality beginning in 2008 and received applications to conduct operations in some 31,000 hectares, 62% of the reserve, the ruling said.

The decision orders the National Mining Agency, in coordination with the military, to "remove people from outside the community who are carrying out mining activities within the reserve."

The ruling annuls any titles and concessions to the area held by companies, which include South Africa's AngloGold Ashanti.

AngloGold Ashanti would not comment in detail but said it shares concession in the area with other mining companies and does not operate there directly. Other companies named in the ruling include local Exploraciones Choco Colombia, Gongora and El Molino.

The decision requires the government to reinstate the Embera Katio's land rights and aid the tribe in their return to the area, including making improvements in security.

According to the United Nations and human rights groups Colombia has 87 different native tribes, with around 1 million members, who are at risk of disappearing, due largely to the country's half-century armed conflict which has killed over 200,000 people and displaced millions.

 

 

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