Colombia: ecologists cut off talks on alpine mining

The Páramo de Santurbán Water Defense Committee, made up of local residents in high Andean communities straddling the Colombian departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, announced Jan. 11 that they are walking out of talks with the national Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development aimed at securing consent for gold-mining operations in the high-altitude zone. The statement said the government failed to provide "clarity" on the proposed projects, or "security guarantees" for those participating in the dialogue. The Páramo de Santurbán, an alpine plain above the timber line, protects the headwaters of several local rivers, and the Defense Committee says mining there could impact access to clean water for up to three million people in northern Colombia. The Ministry is currently demarcating the limits of watershed for supposed protection as a new Santurbán Regional Natural Park, with Vancouver-based gold company Eco Oro (formerly Greystar) awaiting the results to proceed with mining operations outside the protected zone. (Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, Jan. 11;, Bogotá, Dec. 30)

Mining opponents in Colombia have recently faced a wave of threats and assassinaitons. Protection of paramós is also at issue at pending projects in Huila and Tolima departments.