Posted by Marguerite Cawley on Jul 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Medoro executive under fire over comments on Colombia

The director of Canadian gold mining company Medoro came under fire Wednesday after stating that the resettlement of populations for mining operations is a “matter of money.”

In the documentary titled “Fault Lines: Colombia’s Gold Rush,” the film-makers visited the town of Marmato (Caldas department), lying in Colombia’s “historic gold mining district” about three hours south of Medellin, where concessions have been sold to Medoro. According to the documentary, the company plans to essentially blow up the mountain to create an open mine, and relocate everyone in the village.

In the 25-minute documentary, Medero’s corporate director Juan Carlos Santos, the cousin of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, stated that “there are government pressures…  that can help out, I mean we can negotiate, we can compensate them with, basically with our checkbook. I don’t want to sound prepotent or arrogant, but I mean it ends up being basically a matter of money, as well as history and a lot of other things, but basically, money.”

In reference to the company’s decision to move to a new area, the director stated that “the company simply pulls out the checkbook and tells everybody, okay, there are 30 families in this place? How much does each family want?”

In a conversation with W Radio, Santos said that he was “misinterpreted” and his quote taken out of context when he said that that various government resources or “pressures” could help convince families to leave their homes and that everything could basically be resolved with a check.

According to the mining executive, he should not have used the word “money,” but rather, “budget,” in respect to his statement that in order to make re-settlements, the company needs resources.

“In no moment was the word ‘checkbook’ spoken of, the word ‘pressure’ is out of context … I was speaking of other themes, such as that in order to make settlements resources, and many, are needed,” said the director, adding that he has no reason to “retract” his statement because the company is operating “within legal [boundaries] and will always continue to do so.”

The director added that the company also meets the standards laid out by the World Bank in regard to mining operations.

Gold mining in Colombia has been increasingly in the eye of international media since the lack of sustainability in current mining practices came to light. In March, the New York Times reported that Colombia’s gold rush is financing the country’s violent conflict and damaging the environment.