Colombia plans to protect minority rights in mining areas

Colombia’s government on Wednesday announced plans to establish a total of 111 protected zones in mining areas to improve the welfare of indigenous and black communities, reports news agency EFE.

“The Ministry of Mining and Energy will support the development of indigenous and black communities through the mining industry and will do their best to support the well-being of these groups,” said Mining and Energy Minister Carlos Rodado.

The minister stated that the new mining code regulates the ways of exploring and exploiting indigenous territories while also fulfilling the rights and guarantees for protection to participate and consult these groups.

Of the zones, 55 would belong to indigenous communities and 56 to black communities. The minster said that so far 19 mining zones have been created for black communities.

Rodado also addressed Canada’s experience with corporate social responsibility and was confident Colombia can achieve the same. The two countries signed a free trade agreement (FTA) and the forum on Tuesday and Wednesday is said to mark the beginning of the validation of the treaty, which is expected to take place in 2011.

“Without a doubt Colombia faces a big challenge in terms of corporate social responsibility, which has to be incorporated in the activities of the sector and this is precisely where we are looking for a great support by part of Canada,” Rodado said.

Beatriz Uribe, minister of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, announced that Colombia is a country with an “extraordinary” mining potential, which brings “enormous” opportunities and responsibilities.

“Enormous environmental challenges to protect the advantage Colombia has in environmental materials,” Uribe stated.

In September, the Colombian Congress approved the human rights section in the FTA.

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