Some 250,000 Colombian miners began a national strike Saturday to protest the alleged privileged treatment of multinational mining companies over smaller, domestic mining corporations.
The miners, represented by the National Federation of Colombian Ministers (Conalminercol), told weekly Semana that the government is carrying out “an aggressive campaign … against the miners to clear the areas to hand them over to multinationals.”
Conalminercol plans to have all 250,000 miners meet in the northern town of Caucasia on Thursday. The town’s authorities issued a special decree to prevent violence.
In several parts of the country, local miners have clashed with security forces and workers of multinationals over the property rights of mines.
In the mining town of Marmato, some 300 miners temporarily blocked roads after they were removed from the mine they had claimed by multinational Gran Colombia Gold, previously called Medoro Resources. The roadblocks were ended after representatives of Gran Colombia Gold “let us work for now without clashes and threats, while judicially the authorities define whether the mines belong to the multinational or are property of us miners,” a spokesman of the local miners told Caracol Radio.
Colombia’s mining industry has seen a massive increase in foreign investment over the past ten years. However, in many regions the interests of the multinationals clash with those of local families who have depended on the mines for their income for generations and guerrilla and neo-paramilitary groups who increasingly turn to the lucrative gold mining as a source of income.