MAC: Mines and Communities

To the Spoilers the Victory: Colombia Privatises the Mineral Industry with World Bank Support

Published by MAC on 2003-10-29

To the Spoilers the Victory: Colombia Privatises the Mineral Industry with World Bank Support


29th October 2003

The World Bank, the mining multinationals and the government of Alvaro Uribe Vélez have ordered the liquidation of the whole state mining sector, allowing the companies that seriously violate the human rights of the workers and mining communities to end up with Colombia's mining resources in their power.


The above unions denounce the fact that by order of the World Bank and by means of the new Mining Code drawn up by lawyers from the multinational corporations Cemex, Holcim Group from Switzerland and the Ladriller company from Santafe (owned by the Pastrana Arango family), the Colombian government has decided to restructure the state mining sector, liquidating the national mining company MINERCOL Ltd and ‘restructuring’ INGEOMINAS, in order to create a new entity which will take responsibility for the whole sector (State News Centre, office of the President of the Republic, 31 July 2003).

This will end state control of mineral production, destroying the possibility of evaluating and quantifying our reserves, weakening our systems of science and technology, prevention of and response to disasters, and handing over our principle mineral resources to Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencore AG and North American companies. This action was preceded by the demands of the IMF and bilateral military agreements like Plan Colombia to attack communities and workers, producing grave human rights violations in these sectors.


1. The World Bank ordered the revision of all Latin American mining legislation and in our country the New Mining Code was created (Law 685 of 2001). It was drafted by lawyers representing multinational companies in Colombia. Article 317 of this Code transferred the authority of MINERCOL Ltd to the Ministry of Mines. Article 358 ordered the restructuring of the company. Afterwards, the government of Uribe Velez decided to liquidate MINERCOL Ltd and to ‘restructure’ INGEOMINAS, to create a new state organ called COLGEOMIN, a simple and reduced body with a budget so small that it cannot even undertake the basic exploration of one part of our territory, let alone maintain an infrastructure sufficient to oversee, safeguard and control mining activity, distribution of mining royalties and assistance to small-scale miners. Neither will it have the capacity to carry out research on the dangers posed by earth tremors, volcanic eruptions or landslides,which is important for the protection of human life and was one of the functions of INGEOMINAS and MINERCOL Ltd.

2. The justification given by the government of Uribe Velez is the ‘saving’ of 50,000 million pesos in order to comply with the demands of the International Monetary Fund. This saving should not be made at the expense of the Colombian people but taken from the enormous profits of the mining multinationals, which over the past 25 years have made inflated financial gains. By contrast, during this period our country has sustained losses such as: more than 10,000 million dollars just in El Cerrejón Zona Norte; 800,000 dollars in an Arbitration Tribunal with Drummond Coal; 6,000 million pesos lost to the Department of La Guajira and to the people of Colombia because of a declaration that Article 5 of Law 619 of 2000 is unconstitutional because ex-minister Carlos Caballero Argaez imposed a royalty tax rate of a mere 10% on privately owned subsoil, including El Cerrejón Zona Centro; more than 400 million dollars through corruption in the mining sector’s state-run bodies’ administrations, appointed by successive Presidents; and $40,000 million in unrepaid loans to the mining companies operating in our territory. As can be seen, it is not us, the workers, who are the cause of the companies’ bankruptcy but the multinationals which have received so many benefits from this new mining legislation.

3. As well as the legislative changes which are handing our mineral resources over to the multinationals, the Colombian State has pursued a policy of serious human rights violations in order to guarantee foreign investment, against the interests of the nation. In the six mining Departments the murder rate has risen more than 450%, as in the Department of Antioquía during the period 1995 – 1998, in comparison with other Departments with similar demographic conditions. In Colombian mining municipalities between 1995 and 2002 there was an annual average of 828 murders, 142 forced disappearances, 117 cases of wounding, 71 cases of torture, 355 death threats, 150 arbitrary detentions, and 433 massacres which together with extrajudicial executions amount to a total of 6,626 murders in the space of eight years. 68% of forced displacements in the country occur in the areas of greatest mineral production (Río Blanco and Ataco in Tolíma, La Gabarra and neighbouring districts of Norte de Santander, and the municipalities in the south of Bolívar).

In the years 1996 and 2001 when the new mining codes were being drawn up, the areas which were the object of that legislation experienced an enormous increase in human rights violations.

Other Departments with high production levels of oil or gas like Arauca and Putumayo produced similar levels of persecution and assassinations. 42% of the violations of the human rights of trade unionists, in relation to the number of their members, occur in the mining and energy sector, where on average every month one leader of these unions is assassinated. (CUT Human Rights Department.)


1. The National Government should not continue using the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes against communities of poor and humble people, just to guarantee foreign mining investment. It should preserve the state institutions of the mining sector. It should not liquidate MINERCOL Ltd. It should strengthen the technical functions of INGEOMINAS. It should nominate administrations for these entities on the basis of merit, which will function transparently. It should respect workers’ rights, their organizations and their capacity to assist in the building of better institutions.

2. We call on foreign companies Cemex, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencor AG, Holcim Group and Ladrillera Santafe, direct beneficiaries of huge profits and of the repression of the social sector, to take concrete actions in conjunction with the State to bring to an end these violent acts; we call on them to stop acting against the interests and the sovereignty of the country, or else actions will be taken to damage sales of their products.

3. We ask the international community, represented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, the International Labour Organization, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Interamerican Human Rights Commission, the embassies of the countries where the foreign companies are based, and Non-Governmental Organizations both national and international, to make representations to State bodies so that the policy of perpetrating crimes against humanity and war crimes against members of social organizations and trade unions as a way of guaranteeing the operation of mining and oil companies.

4. The World Bank and the Multilateral Bank should suspend all interference in national legislation and should immediately begin reparation procedures for the impacts which their policies have had on the civilian population.

Please write to the following people, making the points listed above:-

His Excellency Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of the Republic,
Cra. 8 n°.7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71.

[Alternative: to send e-mail to Uribe login to and click on ESCRIBALE AL PRESIDENTE at the bottom of the page

Para enviar correo al Sr Presidente, diríjase a la página Web: y haga clic en ESCRIBALE AL PRESIDENTE ubicado en la parte inferior, al final de la página.]

Sr Francisco Santos, Vicepresident.

Doctor Martha Lucía Ramírez de Rincón, Minister of Defence,
Avenida El Dorado con Cra. 52 CAN, Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 222.18.74;

Doctor Edgardo José Maya Villazón, National Procurator General,
Carrera 5 No. 15-80, Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571)342.97.23;

Doctor Wolmar Pérez, Human Rights Ombudsman,
Calle 55 n°. 10-32 Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+ 57 1) 640 04 91

Colombian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva,
Chemin du Champ d'Anier 17-19, 1209 Ginebra.
FAX : (+41 22) 791.07.87; (+ 41 22) 798.45.55.

James Wolfensohn, President, World Bank,
1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433 U.S.A.
Tel: +1 202 473-1000 Fax: +1 202 477-6391

Sir Mark Moody Stuart (Chair) and Tony Trahar (Chief Executive), Anglo American plc,
20 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AN, England.
Tel +44 20 7698 8547 Fax +44 20 7698 8637

(contact details given are for Edward Bickham, Executive Vice President for External Affairs)

Don Argus (Chair) and Charles Goodyear (Chief Executive),
BHP Billiton, 180 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia.
Tel +61 3 9609 3333 Fax +61 3 9609 3015
OR via BHP Billiton plc, Neathouse Place, London SW1V 1BH, England.
Tel +44 20 7802 4000 Fax +41 20 7802 4111
OR contact via e-mail via or tel +41 20 7802 4084

The Chief Executive, GLENCOR, Baarermattstrasse 3 - CH-6341 Baar - Switzerland
Tel +41 41 709 20 00 Fax +41 41 709 30 00 Telex +41 865272

The Chief Executive, HOLCIM, Hagenholzstrasse 85, CH-8050 Zurich, Switzerland.

The Chief Executive, CEMEX, Ave. Constitucion 444 pte, Col. Centro CP 64000, Monterrey NL, Mexico AP 392
And, in the UK, to Colombian Embassy (UK):

Bill Rammell MP Under Secretary of State Foreign Office

with copies to

Model Letter

S.E. Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
Presidente de la República.
Cra. 8 n°.7-26, Palacio de Nariño,
Bogotá- Colombia.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71.

Queremos expresarle nuestra mas profunda preocupación por la situación que viven trabajadoras mineros y la población situada en zonas donde operan compañías mineras, o donde van a desarrollarse explotaciones de esta industria. Tal y como lo ha expresado su gobierno, ustedes reconocen que las compañías mineras que están llegando a vuestro país, tienen los peores registros de violación a los derechos humanos, situación que se ve expresada en la grave violación a estos derechos en zonas mineras, que alcanza el 74% en relación a municipios no mineros; En estos municipios entre 1995 y 2002, se reportó un promedio anual de 828 homicidios, 142 desapariciones forzadas, 117 heridos, 71 torturados, 355 amenazados de muerte, 150 detenciones arbitrarias, 433 masacres, que sumadas a las ejecuciones extrajudiciales dan la cifra de 6.626 homicidios ocurridos en el transcurso de 8 años, el 68% del desplazamiento forzado en el país, sale de las zonas de mayor producción minera y el 25% de las violaciones a los derechos humanos y laborales se presenta en el sector minero-energético.

A esta situación de la población se le suma la de los trabajadores y dirigentes sindicales, que vienen siendo exterminados como manera de garantizar procesos de privatización y liquidación de empresas estatales, en lo que va de su mandato han sido asesinados 94 sindicalistas y la impunidad en la búsqueda de responsables es del 99%.

Por ello señor presidente muy respetuosamente le solicitamos no acabar con las empresas del sector estatal minero Minercol Ltda e Ingeominas y no privatizar los servicios que prestan estas, cesar de inmediato la represión contra los pobladores, los trabajadores y las comunidades indígena y afrodescendiente, investigar y castigar a los culpables de dichos hechos y suspender cualquier contratación con compañías ligadas a la comisión de delitos de lesa humanidad y crímenes de guerra, que de esa forma se garantizan sus operaciones mineras o petroleras.


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