Colombia’s artisan and small-scale miners will participate in national strikes set to kick off at April 28, claiming the government failed to comply with agreements made during strikes held last year, local media reported Monday.
Colombia witnessed one of the country’s largest anti-governmental protests in August last year. The demonstrations were supported by health workers, coffee farmers, professors, rice growers, sugar cane cutters, peasants in Putumayo and miners, all calling upon President Juan Manuel Santos‘ administration for major changes.
Among other supporters, the miners will participate again in national strikes on April 28, reported Caracol Radio. Stella Luz Ramirez, executive director of the Confederation of Colombian miners, claimed that none of the agreements made in 2013 with the government have honored.
|“If they can hold a peace process with people who have socially and economically hurt this country, how come they can’t do a transition process with people who contributed to the development of their regions, to the GDP, and who pay taxes.”|
The miners and the Colombian government agreed last year on 4 out of 15 demands. These demands included a draft legislation to officially recognize the artisan and small-scale miners; give public authorities guidelines in how to treat the miners; transparency in exploiting the protected forestry areas; environmental guidelines to reduce the impact caused by mining exploitation.
Stella Luz Ramirez, told Colombia Reports that the confederation attempted to avoid the strike by actively participating in governmental discussions, with few results.
In December 2013, miners proposed the government create an administrative act through which traditional mining would be transitionally recognized until the government implements a draft legislation, as promised. The government rejected the demand saying that the procedure is “not legal.”
“If they can hold a peace process with people [of rebel group FARC] who have socially and economically hurt this country, how come they can’t do a transition process with people who contributed to the development of their regions, to the GDP, and who pay taxes,” argued Ramirez who believes that the only impediment is the lack of political will.
Illegal armed groups have used illegal mining as a source of funding for their operations, which often leads to environmental damage, for example dumping mercury and cyanide by-products into surrounding rivers, according to the head of the environmental unit of the Prosecutor General’s office, Gloria Elsa Arias.
|“They created a media campaign saying that we fund the illegal armed groups but we are the victims of those armed groups.”|
Ramirez said that security forces have been carrying out operations against illegal mining which consist in burning and destroying the mining machines. In many cases, the machines belong to traditional miners who fall victims in these operations.
“We have 95 backhoes and 45 dredges burned by the authorities [in the operatives against illegal mining] but no miner has been arrested. The national government says they are fighting against illegal mining but if we are the criminals why are they not arresting us,” said Ramirez.
According to Ramirez, governmental contracts made with foreign investors for legitimate mining projects are mining areas inhabited by peasants and the traditional miners. These contracts turned the local minors into “problems” and the government is responding through “mechanisms of repression.”
Ramiro claims that the miners are victims of the authorities as well as of the illegal armed groups, “They created a media campaign saying that we fund the illegal armed groups but we are the victims of those armed groups.”
The national strike is confirmed by farmers from different departments and will take place on April 28 , a few weeks before the presidential elections.
- Interview with Stella Luz Ramirez
- Mineros de Risaralda confirman participación en posible paro agrario (Caracol Radio)
- Mineros artesanales se unirán al paro agrario (Cronica del Quindio)