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Colombia: Mining Debate Continues as New Minister is Appointed

Among the many riches of Colombia are gold, silver, emeralds, coal and nickel deposits; however, safety concerns have led many to question the management of the country's mining industry. Not only because of the tragedies [es] that have occurred in the mines themselves, but also because of environmental [es] concerns, possible problems of sustainability [es] and the lack of economic, political and social benefits [es].

President Juan Manuel Santos nominated Mauricio Cárdenas Santa María Minister of Mining and Energy, aiming to initiate [es] a significant restructuring [es] of the Ministry. However, reactions on social networks, blogs and YouTube continue to flood the Internet.

Most of Colombia's gold is produced from alluvial operations, by local artisanal miners. Image by Alzbeta Jungrova, copyright Demotix (26/11/09).

Most of Colombia's gold is produced from alluvial operations, by local artisanal miners. Image by Alzbeta Jungrova, copyright Demotix (26/11/09).

Reactions to new minister

La Silla Vacía [es] reports on the new minister:

Fue director de Planeación Nacional durante el gobierno de Andrés Pastrana y Ministro de Transporte, donde se vio envuelto en el escándalo de Dragacol por una conciliación laboral realizada de manera irregular.

He was the director of National Planning during Andrés Pastrana's administration and the Minister of Transportation, where he became wrapped up in the Dragacol scandal for a labour conciliation that was badly executed.

Under Mauricio Cárdenas, in 1998 the Ministry of Transportation signed a fraudulent contract for 26,000 million pesos (US$ 12.5 million) to the Society of Mining and Construction of Colombia and the Caribbean S.A (Dragacol) [es], for a series of mine-sweeping operations. The group MUMA (@Mumismo) is now questioning the new Minister about this case:

PAÍS SIN MEMORIA… Miren quién es el nuevo Ministro de Minas y Energía: “Se cae Dragacol” http://bit.ly/pi9EaR

THIS COUNTRY HAS NO MEMORY… Look who's the new Minister of Mining and Energy: “Dragacol collapses” http://bit.ly/pi9EaR [es]

Effects of mining

Looking at mining from another angle, @TuiterosBoyaca shares a link from newspaper El Tiempo [es] on the latest news [es] from the department of Boyacá, when on September 21, 2011, an accumulation of gas produced an explosion that in turn caused the coal mine ‘El Diamante 3′ to cave-in, leaving seven dead and several injured:

Tras 52 horas, rescatan cuerpos de los siete mineros en Socha (Boyacá) http://bit.ly/qIg1Pw

After 52 hours, the bodies of seven miners in Socha (Boyacá) have been rescued http://bit.ly/qIg1Pw

The following video from August 28, 2010, which has been shared by thousands of netizens, resonates today given the ongoing issues related to mining. ‘Open-pit mining contamination in Colombia’ was produced due to the concern of various Colombian television actors and actresses. The video includes their opinions in favour of conservation of the environment, and their positions against contamination; they explain that during extraction elements used in the mining of gold affect the air, rivers, population and general ecosystem:

The University of el Rosario of Bogota (@urosarionews) wonders [es] about the consequences of mining on the environment and adds a link to an article published on July 19, 2011, by Sala de Prensa [es]:

En Yanacocha, Perú, la minería de oro a cielo abierto afectó la naturaleza. ¿Podría suceder esto en Colombia? http://bit.ly/qnTaP1

In Yanacocha, Perú, open-pit mining of gold affects nature. Could this happen in Colombia? http://bit.ly/qnTaP1 [es]

The blog El Salmón [es] also expresses worry over sustainability and the environment:

Ahora, a la lenta muerte del nevado del Tolima pretenden sumarle la amenaza de destrucción de los ecosistemas de la cuenca y un futuro incierto para miles de familias que deberán salir de sus fincas para abrirle paso a la locomotora minera…

Now, to the slow death of the Nevado del Tolima they intend to add the threat of the destruction of the ecosystems of the basin and an uncertain future for thousands of families that have to leave their farms to open their doors to a mining locomotive…

Activist's murder

Finally, the murder of Father Reinel Restrepo, an activist who lead and spoke out against the extraction of mining in Marmato, Caldas, where multinational Gran Colombia Gold operates in the extraction of gold, has raised several concerns. The parish priest was opposed to his parish being subjected to the development of a mega-project for the extraction of gold, and had been warned that it would cost him his life.

Walter Rengifo (@wrengifoc) makes reference [es] to the possible causes of the death of Father Reinel Restrepo:

El párroco de Marmato caldas denuncio días antes, que temía por su vida por protestar en contra de un mega proyecto de extracción de oro y la reubicación del pueblo para lograr sus fines.

The parish priest of Marmato Caldas declared, days before, that he feared for his life after protesting against the gold extraction mega project and the relocation of the town to achieve their means.

Meanwhile, Samir Ammar (@marmatovive) shares a link [es] to the blog Marmato Vive, where a letter was published citing the Project for the Accompaniment and Solidarity of Colombia's webpage as a source:

MARMATO VIVE: COMUNICADO DE ORGANIZACIONES CANADIENSES TRAS EL ASESINATO DEL PADRE JOSÉ REINEL RESTR http://t.co/eVJDtEjs

MARMATO VIVE: COMMUNIQUE FROM CANADIAN ORGANISATIONS ABOUT FATHER JOSE REINEL RESTREPO'S MURDER http://t.co/eVJDtEjs

The blog No to mining [es], citing Noticias UNO [es] as a source, reports:

Reynel Restrepo venía acompañando desde hace dos años por los derechos de los mineros de Marmato, quienes se oponen a que multinacionales del oro los desplacen del lugar. El representante de la junta cívica de Marmato dijo que el padre Restrepo le había dicho que en los últimos días había recibido presión de la Gran Colombia Gold. La multinacional ha dicho que su trabajo no atenta contra la comunidad y en un comunicado que expidió ayer señala que lamentaba la muerte del sacerdote.

Reynel Restrepo lobbied for two years for the rights of the miners of Marmato, who opposed the multinational companies that would displace them. The representative of the joint committee of Marmato said that Father Restrepo told him that in the last few days he was being pressured by Gran Colombia Gold. The multinational company said that its work does not pose a threat to the community and sent a communique yesterday that declared their sympathy for the death of the priest.

The same entry included a video [es] with testimonies from the inhabitants of Marmato and declarations from the priest.

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