Colombia’s comptroller general warned the State that mining operations in places of past and present armed conflict could impede the land restitution process set forth in President Juan Manuel Santos’ Victims and Land Restitution Law of 2011.
In a national mining report drawn up by the comptroller general, the office warns, “The geographical convergence between the restitution policy of lands forcibly stripped and the emphasized, intensive-extractive mining model generates a series of challenges for the restitution judges.” According to the report, “The main one has to do with the necessity of the judge, clad with constitutional power, to apply a priority test of fundamental rights and interests in territories subject to restitution.”
Almost all of the municipalities that are being intervened by the agency in charge of land restitution have mining titles, and a map of 2012 mining title solicitations shows that more projects may soon arrive in these areas (see below). The comptroller’s report called on the Colombian government to grant mining rights to the people originally displaced from the land and said that the National Mining Agency (ANM) is obligated to deliver the required information (legal, financial, technical, operational) about mines on contested land to the land restitution authorities.
The Comptroller General also said that the government is granting mining contracts haphazardly and not taking into account humanitarian, environmental and socio-economic implications mining projects have in certain regions.
“The humanitarian impacts, in relation to violations of human rights or violations of International Human Rights Law territorally associated with mining cannot continue to be assumed as ‘collateral damage’ or unrelated to mining activity, but rather as ‘risks’ that must be socialized with mining companies,” claimed the report. In addition the Comptroller suggested that the State take better measures to identify the risks before granting mining contracts and incorporate compensation and reparation responsibility clauses to avoid impunity. According to the report, the State is currently assuming much of the cost of environmental restoration due to its lack of regulatory framework.
It is no secret that illegal mining (in addition to drug trafficking and extortion) provides an economic base for illegal actors in Colombia’s armed conflict. The report referenced a Constitutional Court declaration from 2009 stating, “In some parts of the country it’s clear that actors of the armed conflict and economic interests have linked, a unity that is one of the principle causes of forced displacement.
The Comptroller suggested the government perform more thorough background checks before granting mining contracts because of the link to mining and illegal armed groups.
“Conflicts exist around the extractive mining model that put tension on individual and collective rights enshrined in the Constitution … The presence of mining in territories can also generate new conflicts in terms of loss of constitutional rights. This deserves a warning about the absence of sufficient and rigorous control on behalf of the State in relation to the severity of the impacts,” read the report.
The Comptroller General recommended that the state not grant any new mining contracts in zones where armed conflict persists.
A report from the mining, energy and chemical workers union, FUNTRAENERGETICA, referenced in the Comptroller’s report stated that, “80% of the human rights violations that occur in Colombia present themselves in the mining/petroleum municipalities (35% of the country); 87% of forced displacement comes from these municipalities; 78% of crime against unionists, 89% of crimes against indigenous, and 90% of crimes against Afro-Colombians are committed in mining areas.”
Mining concessions vs. land restitution
Mineria en Colombia: Fundamentos para superar el modelo extractivista (Comptroller General)