MAC: Mines and Communities

KAIROS, the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives response to Toronto Globe and Mail article

Published by MAC on 2006-01-05
Source: KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

KAIROS, the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives responded to the article above with a letter that has so far not been published:

5th January 2006

To the editor,
Toronto Globe and Mail

As Canadian gold companies celebrate their newfound opportunities in Colombia (Colombia's troubles pale next to golden opportunities -- January 4th), they risk overlooking the people most affected by their operations: Colombians.

Millions of Colombians have suffered unimaginable pain as President Uribe institutionalized "a more stable political regime, lower taxes and the best security of tenure for mining companies." Sadly, their pain continues.

Through its support of the paramilitary, the Colombian state has become the worst violator of human rights in our hemisphere, and the humanitarian crisis in the country is the America's largest with over 3 million people displaced from their homes.

In June last year, over 1500 delegates from over 250 communities in Colombia travelled to Bogotá to report their stories of pain and loss at the hands of state and para-state actors. Many families and entire communities have been cleared from lands where international mining companies operate, including areas around Medellin and
Bucaramanga, regions rich in gold and largely controlled by paramilitary groups.

Gold seekers like the new Colombian mining law, which grants mining rights to foreign operators for up to 30 years, with an option to renew for another 30 years. The law, written with the financial support of the Canadian International Development Agency, has been called one that "consolidates looting" by the Colombian miners union for its damaging affects on indigenous land holders, small mining operations, and unions, which have been systematically dismantled.

Mining has generated $3 billion for the Colombian state. While this money could have been spent on improving the lives of affected communities, the President has decided rather to spend the windfall on new army recruits for surveillance of gold, oil and energy facilities.

The Ministry of Defence added 79,000 men to the security force last year, bringing greater forces into conflict with the FARC (Colombia's largest rebel force). Large-scale displacement will surely follow.

So, while Canadians profit from mining operations overseas, many locals continue to suffer death and displacement. It's their stories that seldom get told.

John Lewis
Program Coordinator
International Human Rights
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
129 St. Clair Ave West, Toronto, ON M4V 1N5
tel: 416.463.5312, ext.224 fax: 416.463.5569

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