Over the past 10 years, more than 40% of Colombia’s national territory has been leased to, or is being solicited for leasing by, multinational corporations, according to a report released last year by the NGO PBI Colombia, “Mining in Colombia: at what cost?” (PDF). Of Colombia’s total territory of 114 million hectares, more than 8.4 million have been licensed for mineral exploration and more than 37 million for oil exploration. Colombian business website Portafolio.com reported April 8 on a February report by the Colombian Geological Survey indicating that 18 multinational mining companies own the rights to over 1.5 million hectares—with the two largest, Anglo Gold Ashanti and Mineros SA, accounting for 59% of the total figure. Portafolio.com reported Jan. 15 that US multinational Cargill recently purchased 90,000 hectares in Meta department for grain production, and is seeking more. Foreign agribusiness interests from Argentina, Switzerland, Israel and other countries have procured some 100,000 hectares around Colombia for production of “biofuels” and other cash crops—particularly in the Magdalena Medio region.
An April 7 report on the land-grab in the Colombian newsweekly Semana provided some global context, noting that over the last decade alone, more than 230 million hectares in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia have come under the control of multinational corporations. Taken as a whole, this is an area equivalent to the combined territories of the Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. The lands in question, previously under food crop production, are now largely dedicated to biofuels and mineral extraction. (NACLA News, April 10)