MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Behind Quinchia´s gold

Published by MAC on 2004-12-20


Behind Quinchia´s gold

By Gonzalo Arango Jiménez (Indymedia, Colombia)

20th December 2004

The Kedahda SA Colombia company is related to Anglogold Ashanti, the world's second biggest gold producer. It is aiming to secure working licences over 33,000 hectarees along the basin of the Cauca river in Colombia's Quinchía region, and the Guatica, Riosucio, Anserma, Neira and Filadelfia areas. Kedahda is also asking for a licence to explore Santa Rosa, Morales and San Martín del Loba, south of Bolivar, comprising about one million two hundred hectares, where five thousand artisianal miners are working.

Quinchia mineMost of Quinchia´s inhabitants live on small coffee plots and many of them switch from agricultural work to artisanal mining, extracting a few grams of gold as a complement to their precarious subsistence. It is estimated that five thousand people depend on the 1,200 people comprising 22 Mining Associations in the municipality. This type of "solidarity economy" competes with the so-called "official miners": who have asked for exploitation licenses covering "free areas"; although not working these areas themselves, they forbid others to do so. Later, they can sell their "acquisition rights" to foreign companies.

The local administration is far from guaranteeing the right to work for artisianal miners, who have tried to protect their livelihoods under existing laws. More than a year ago they asked that the area be declared a reserve - the legal definition under national mining law number 31 for protection of traditional exploitation - but without success.

Quinchia ranks bottom but one in areas covered by the Regional Human Development Report 2004, introduced by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to the Eje Cafetero region (the states of Caldas, Quindio and Risarala). Living conditions of its 39,000 inhabitants are the most precarious of all those living in these zones.

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