Prehearing On The Mining SectorPublished by MAC on 2006-08-16
Prehearing on the mining sector
Permanent People's Tribunal, session on transnationals and paramilitarism in Colombia
We, representatives of organisations from the south of Bolivar, from various parts of Colombia and the world, organisations of small farmers, indigenous people, African descendants, human rights defenders, students, and solidarity and fraternal groups, met in Santa Rosa del Sur on 15 and 16 August 2006 to begin the indictment of the Kedahda mining company, a subsidiary of the transnational company AngloGold Ashanti, for its natural resource extraction project, which is gravely damaging the rights of the miners in the region, and for its use of irregular armed groups to assist in this project.
After two days of deliberations involving small farmers, both men and women, who have been engaged in mining activity in the South of Bolivar region and other parts of the country for many years, we came to the following conclusions:
When miners in the region applied for mining permits and the extension of already existing titles from Bolivar Department's Mines Secretariat, they discovered that the Kedahda company had already sought contracts of concession covering almost the whole mining zone of the Department of Bolivar. They had also sought such contracts in 336 municipalities in the country, using the same strategy to enter areas of interest to them as they had used in Quinchia, Risaralda.
This had occurred because of the reform of the Mining Code, which was carried out a few years ago to the direct benefit of the interests of transnational mining companies and to the detriment of small miners who for many decades had earned their living through this work, which was their only source of subsistence; to the detriment, also, of Indigenous and African descendant communities, territories and cultures.
The conditions which have been imposed on the legalisation of titles totally exclude the possibility of poor miners complying with the State's requirements to legalise their activities, obliging these people and their families to confront conditions of illegality and the misery caused by the mechanisms of speculation dominating the informal gold market, which enable municipalities and departments which do not produce gold to benefit illegally from royalties, many of which have gone to finance paramilitary activities.
Although until now all that can be proven is that exploration has begun at a number of sites, such as in the settlements of Buena Seña, San Martín de Loba and la Cruz, everything suggests that in the next ten years the transnational Kedahda till have all the facilities it needs to pursue the studies it wants in the South of Bolivar and to hold on to the land from which it can derive the greatest benefit, without bothering about the rights acquired over many decades by the peasant population which has worked there. The first explorations also reveal that there is no interest in cleaning up pollution and that the greath wealth of gold produced in this region already is not to be enjoyed by the Colombian people and will be converted into a source of further violence, displacement and dispossession.
We have also been able to prove on the basis of the testimonies of participants that many functionaries paid by the State or by international bodies, after extracting very valuable information from them, have ended up working in the service of Kedahda, to which they bring all the information extracted on the basis of the confidence placed in them by communities. It can also be proved that the presence of public forces in the region is being used more and more for the defence of the interests of the transnational and to convince small farmers that the presence of the company is a sign of progress and that they should therefore submit themselves to all its demands. Other State entities have opted to negotiate with the company, receiving large considerations in exchange for their help and indulgence.
Before the transnational Kedahda was legally constituted, the parent company, AngloGold Ashanti, had tried to help itself to a large area of 7000 hectares in the south of Bolivar, specifically in the settlements of San Pedro Frío, El Paraíso, Mina Gallo and Montecristo, through dubious land titles which in any case had lost their validity, through a controversial process which the company lost. It can be shown that when the negotiations were breaking down the area was invaded by paramilitary groups which committed numerous crimes against the mining population, such as assassinations, forced displacements, disappearances, attempts to starve communities out, threats and subjection of the population to a real reign of terror. This situation reveals the mechanisms which economically powerful groups are accustomed to use to get hold of riches when the population will not give up the defence of its rights.
Recently, since Kedahda's projects in the region have become better known, a growing presence of paramilitary groups has been noticed, even though they have supposedly been demobilised, and of private security companies there to defnd the interests of Kedahda. At the same time, members of the army are striking fear into local people by telling them that soon paramilitary groups like the Black Eagles will be there, and that they will act without mercy towards small farmers who try to oppose the presence of the mining company. For this reason the installation of a special battalion of the army in the mining region of San Pedro Frío is all the more worrying.
We, the participants in this prehearing, because of the huge scale of the aggression which affects our fundamental rights, above all our economic and social rights, confirm our commitment to the defence of our rights, territories and communities, and we see the necessity of calling together all the small farming, Indgenous and African descendant sectors affected at the moment by the schemes of the Kedahda company, which offers food for a day and hunger for the rest of our lives, to build a broad movement of unified resistance in defence of our fundamental rights.
Santa Rosa, Sur de Bolivar, August 16, 2006
RED EUROPEA DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA
(European network of fraternity and solidarity with Colombia)