MAC/20: Mines and Communities

COMMUNIQUE TO NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION

Published by MAC on 2007-02-14

COMMUNIQUE TO NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION

Marmato, Colombia

14th February 2007

THE CIVIC COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENSE OF MARMATO AND THE REGIONAL INDIGENOUS COUNCIL OF CALDAS (CRIDEC) DENOUNCE THE IMMINENT DANGER OF DISAPPEARANCE THAT THE MUNICIPALITY OF MARMATO IS BEING SUBMITTED TO, THE HISTORICAL PATRIMONY OF THE NATION, FOR A LARGE-SCALE OPEN PIT GOLD MINING OPERATION, IMPOSED BY THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT AND THE CANADIAN COMPANY COLOMBIA GOLDFIELDS, WITHOUT HAVING INFORMED THE RESIDENTS PREVIOUSLY, WITHOUT ANY STUDIES OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, AND MAKING THE NATION BELIEVE THAT IT IS NECESSARY TO EVICT THE ENTIRE TOWN BECAUSE OF THE HIGH RISK OF LANDSLIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN UPON WHICH IT IS LOCATED.

After several months of permanent anxiety imposed upon us by the Minister of Mining, Ingeominas, the Attorney General of the Nation, the Military Industry, and the Offices of Attention to Disasters of the Government of Caldas, forcing us to evacuate the historic zone of Marmato and the nearby mountain, under these institution's allegations of the eminent danger of landslide of the Cerro El Burro, we have realized that all this is nothing more than a bad faith action on the part of the Colombian State to help a Canadian multinational company depopulate the mountain, of which they have already purchased over 60%, with the goals of extracting five million ounces of gold (150 tons) which they calculate to be buried deep under the town of Marmato.

The newspaper El Mundo of Medellín reported on September 27, 2006 the declarations of Mr. Ian M. Park, president of the Mining Company of Caldas S.A., subsidiary of Colombia Goldfields, as saying that the project is "an exploration of the mountain of Marmato, where 120 illegal mines currently operate, all of which the foreign investors wish to obtain, as well as a piece of land of over 200 square kilometers in Caramanta (Antioquia)... The project will be the largest in Colombia in terms of gold, and in terms of investment, which could reach some U$300 million."

The company states in their web page (www.colombiagf.com) that "a study in 1998 identified the presence of five million ounces of gold inside an area of the Marmato operations owned by the company."

The grave thing about this operation is that it is an open-pit mine, which means the demolition of the town of Marmato, which is Cultural Patrimony of the Nation.

In the article titled "The Mountain of Gold," in El Colombiano de Medellín newspaper, on December 12, 2005, an account is given of a meeting between Ian Park, president of the Mining Company of Caldas, Julián Villaruel, general director of Ingeominas, and Fabio Valencia Cossio, chief counsel of the Presidency of the Republic. It reads: "The director general of Ingeominas, Julián Villaruel said to this newspaper that "Marmato is a region that has been being mined in an artesanal manner. Now there are large international firms that would like to return to a large-scale open-pit exploitations, but to do this the town will have to be moved. This will require an investment of some $8 to 10 million dollars."

The problem is that we residents of Marmato were never informed that a death sentence had been decreed against our municipality in order to make way for an open-pit mining operation. On the contrary, INGEOMINAS has been the entity which has generated a panic by announcing the imminent landslide on the town because of supposed instability of the mountain.

And if the town really needs to be moved, where will it be moved to? Until now the evacuated residents from the high part of Marmato have been relocated to a lower part of the mountain (El Llano), but this is an emergency settlement, not a new Marmato.

And there are as well the environmental effects. In the same article, it says that "It is calculated that the open-pit mine will be one of the largest in South America. In fact, over 30,000 to 60,000 tons of earth will have to be moved each day in order to produce about 250,000 ounces of gold per year."

And we ask ourselves: With what methods are they going to break open this mountain if it is solid rock and not loose soil such as in La Guajira? And with what water are they going to irrigate some daily 60,000 tons of mineral? How much cyanide are they going to use? And how big are going to be the milling piles? Where are they going to construct the gigantic installations that are required? Where are they going to put the tons of waste rock? Where are they going to pump out the contaminated waters?

Nobody has informed us of these. We do not know either if there even exists a Environmental License which takes all of these aspects of Big Mining into account.

The Canadian company has advanced greatly in the process of acquiring the mountain. We read in the El Mundo newspaper of September 27, 2006: "In this moment they have 50% of the legal mines, after acquiring 62 of them by August 31 of the past year and by the end of this year they hope to end up with 100% of them. Regarding the illegal mines, the president of the Mining Company of Caldas explained that they are going to file claims before the Colombian Ministry of Mining as a project of Big Mining in order to have preferential rights of expropriation and thus be able to control all of the mines."

But has anyone asked the National Government what is happening with the thousands of indigenous persons, afrocolombians and mestizos who are ending up without work because of these sales? What will come of our families?

WE DENOUNCE THE IMMINENT DANGER OF DISAPPEARANCE OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF MARMATO FOR AN LARGE-SCALE OPEN-PIT GOLD MINING OPERATION.

WE DENOUNCE THAT THEY ARE GOING TO EXPLOIT IN 20 YEARS A NATIONAL RESOURCE THAT COULD LAST 200 YEARS.

WE REJECT THE BAD FAITH IN WHICH INGEOMINAS AND OTHER STATE ORGANIZATIONS OF THE COLOMBIAN STATE HAVE OPERATED IN INFORMING US OVER THE CAUSE OF THE FORCED EVICTIONS IN THE MARMATO MOUNTAIN.

WE DEMAND AN INDEPENDENT GEOLOGICAL STUDY REGARDING THE POSSIBLE RISK OF LANDSLIDES OF THE MOUNTAIN OF MARMATO.

WE URGE THE RESPECT OF MARMATO AS NATIONAL HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL PATRIMONY OF THE NATION.

WE CALL FOR THE CARRYING OUT OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION OUTLINED IN THE CONVENTION 169 OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION AND IN LAW 70 OF THE 1993 CONVENTIONS OF INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES AND BLACK COMMUNITIES.

WE DEMAND THAT THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT EXPLAIN UNDER WHICH ENVIRONMENTAL LICENSE THE OPEN-PIT MINING OPERATION OF MARMATO WAS APPROVED, AND WHAT CONTINGENCY MEASURES ARE IN PLACE IN ORDER TO AVOID ITS IMMENSE CULTURAL, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES.

This communiqué is signed by the following members of the gathering: CRIDEC, Indigenous Cabilida of Cartama, Multiactive Miners Cooperative, Association for the Defense of Marmato, Social Group REVIVAMOS, Group of Social Well Being, Health Club, Association of Barequeros, Association of Transporters, Association of Jewelers, Delegations of Teachers, and the Committees of Communal Action, and citizens in general.

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