MAC: Mines and Communities

Colombia: Ibagué City Council passes referendum on mining

Published by MAC on 2016-03-01
Source: El Espectador

The people will decide whether they agree or not with mining developments

Ibagué is the capital of Tolima, one of the 32 departments that make up the Republic of Colombia. The city is located in the center of the country, on the Andes. With about half million inhabitants, is Colombia's seventh most populous city.

If accepted by Tolima Administrative Court, the referendum will probably take place in June.

See previous articles on MAC:
Colombian town rejects AngloGold Ashanti in local vote
10,000 march in protest against gold mine project in Colombia

For the first time a capital city approves a referendum on mining

The population of Ibague will decide whether they agree or not with mining in its territory. The City Council gave its approval to the proposal submitted by the mayor of the city.

El Tiempo  [Original in Spanish:]

29 February 2016

Nearly two months after the mayor of Ibague, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, presented a proposal to conduct a referendum, the 19 members of the Council of the capital of Tolima gave him the nod.

The idea, expressed Jaramillo, is that ibaguereños decide whether yes or not to mining on their territory.

Although not mentioned, the question refers to gold mining project La Colosa, to be carried out in Cajamarca and could affect the Coello River basin.

Meanwhile, AngloGold Ashanti, which expects to extract 29 million ounces of gold starting in 2020, has reiterated that its influence will only be Cajamarca.

The decision was made after officials from the Government visited the councilors and, as they said to this newspaper, tried to convince them not to vote in favour of the consultation, which will be reviewed of constitutionality by the Tolima Administrative Court.

To Jaramillo, there was pressure from various government entities ranging from dismissal to loss of investiture, to convince the councilors not to carry out this process.

"Definitely, Bogota is not used to let the people decide. This country is increasingly centralist, but we have the right to decide," said Jaramillo.

If approved, it would be the first provincial capital that would call for a referendum on this issue, and the first to do so after the ruling of the Constitutional Court that stopped mining on the paramos.

The underlying theme that hides this debate is the eternal dispute between the central government and local authorities: Can municipalities decide on the exploitation of natural resources in their territory?

If accepted by the Administrative Court of Tolima, the referendum will probably take place in June.

In July 2013 the city of Piedras, where AngloGold Ashanti expects to operate, approved a referendum that said no to mining.

In Cajamarca, where the mining project La Colosa is located, an initiative to carry out a "consulta" was presented to the local council, but was unsuccessful.

Translated from Spanish by Luis Manuel Claps

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