Colombian town expels mining company

After a lengthy dispute with global mega-firm AngloGold Ashanti, the people of the central Colombian town of Piedras passed a referendum July 23 to halt the mining company's ambitions in their municipality for good. AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) has consistently insisted that they "100% owned" the site at La Colosa near Piedras, Tolima, despite having been investigated for illegal mining activity earlier this year.  Of the potential 5,105 eligible voters, 2971 people voted against the company's plans while just 24 voted in support of AGA's mining plans. According to Law 134 of 1994, this decision is legally binding; at least a third of eligible voters took part and the motion was passed by at least 50% of the vote. AGA was defeated by a sweeping 99.1% of the vote.

In March of this year, the company was investigated for what was described as "illegal mining exploration" when they secretly installed two drilling platforms, as well as other industrial processes, without alerting the local environmental authority. The company was also accused of using drinking water for industrial purposes without seeking prior permission.

In February, a spokesperson for AGA told Colombia Reports website that "we have no secrets and have had several public meetings to share with the communities and the authorities what we are doing. We will continue meeting with the people to provide further information as we advance on our work. We cannot provide information on aspects or decisions that require further analysis."

The initial mining operations sparked protests and road blockades. This in turn sparked a legal battle when company representatives accused local authorities of "not doing enough" to prevent locals from "halting the freedom of movement" of company personnel. (Colombia Reports, July 23)

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