The apparent success of Colombia’s mining boom is being overshadowed by human rights violations and mass displacement from mining areas, international human right organization Peace Brigades International (PBI) said Monday.
“80% of the human rights violations that have occurred in Colombia in the last ten years were committed in mining and energy-producing regions, and 87% of Colombia’s displaced population originate from these places,” a report by the organization published last week said.
According to PBI spokesperson Moira Birss, mining activities are frequently accompanied by a disregard of the constitutional rights of minorities and threats and attacks on leaders of these communities.
“Community leaders who oppose mining projects, or the organizations that accompany those leaders and communities, have at times been targeted with threats and even attacks in what would appear to be a result of their opposition, as was the case with the priest who was killed in Marmato,” said Birss, referring to an area where mining company Gran Colombia Gold and the local community are at odds over who has the rights to mine for gold.
Birss also expressed concern over suspicions that “companies may take advantage of, or potentially even pariticipate in, incidents of forced displacement in order to exploit that newly-available land.”
“After its most recent visit to Colombia, the mission of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stated that indigenous peoples are often subject to forced displacement as a strategy to impose megaprojects on their lands without having to undergo the process of prior consultation,” Birss told Colombia Reports.
PBI did not look at whether Colombia’s judicial authorities are investigating the possible role of multinational mining companies in human rights violations, but according to Birss, “the conflict has always been about control of resources.”
“The case of Curbarado and Jiguamiando is the quintessential exmple of this: communities were forcibily displaced, then palm companies came in and set up shop. And thanks to the tireless work of the communities and those who accompany them, direct links are being proven between the displacement and the economic projects; several palm company owners have recently been condemned, and others are under investigation.
“Many experts, like the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, have alerted that there is every reason to believe that the pattern is or will be repeating itself in the mining sector,” said Birss.