Colombia: popular power defeats mega-mining

Mining multinational AngloGold Ashanti announced April 27 that it will abandon its planned mega-project at La Colosa, in Colombia's central department of Tolima, following a popular vote by local residents to reject the project last month. Members of Cajamarca municipality held the vote or consulta March 26. Leader of the "No" campaign, Renzo García of the local Environmental Committee for Defense of Water and Life, called the company's decision to abide by the vote "a good sign for democracy." (El Espectador, April 27)

After the March 26 vote, several Colombian municipalities whose lands also overlap with proposed mining sites expressed their intention to hold consultas of their own on the projects. Ibagué, Tolima's capital, also intends to move ahead with a vote on mining operations within its municipal borders. (El Tiempo, March 28)

Also in the days following the vote, leaders of the Cajamarca Environmental Committee received telephone death threats accusing them of being "guerillas and communists." (Prensa Rural, April 3) The threats were especially menacing as they came amid an ongoing wave of assassinations of social leaders across Colombia.

Canadian company Gran Colombia Gold has meanwhile filed a $700 million lawsuit against Colombia under the Colombian-Canadian free trade agreement after the government issued an order to cease operations at its El Burro site in Marmato, Caldas department, until it has further consulted with local residents. (Financial Post, April 10)

Canadian mineral interests also intend to sue Bogotá under the FTA over a Colombian high court decision to suspend mining on alpine wetlands or páramos.