Miners with claims to territory in northern Colombia face an uncertain future after a 27,911-acre area in the region was deemed a protected nature reserve.
Uncertainty swelled after the Regional Corporation for the Defense of the Meseta de Bucaramanga (CDMB) on Tuesday approved natural park status for a large portion of mining territory in the northern Santander department. The ruling would prohibit more than 30 multinational companies and more than 1,000 small-scale miners, all of whom already have titles, from mining in what is now natural park land. Before the new delineations, miners could access 82% of the territory.
“It’s a delicate situation,” Orlando Gamboa, the President of Vetas Miners Association, told Colombia Reports. Gamboa also confirmed the possibility that some small-scale miners could be displaced by the CDMB ruling.
One of the largest multinational companies who could be affected is Eco Oro. The Canada-based gold mining firm holds seven different claims to more than 15,000 acres.
“Once these limits are known, we will be able to assess the impact of the park on the assets and business of the company. Until those limits [are] officially disclosed, any review of the impacts of mining in the region is speculative,” said Eco Oro CEO Joao Carrelo.
The decision to dedicate large tracts of land for national parks is part of a larger state-wide policy led by the Colombian Ministry of the Environment.
Juan Gabriel Uribe, Colombia’s Minister of the Environment, told local reporters that the decision “is part of a state policy in which the protection of a natural resource prevails.”
Colombia’s Minister of the Environment insists that there will be no mining projects within the boundaries of the park.