U.S./Colombian company Muriel Mining Corporation illegally started preparations
for mining on indigenous land in the north of Chocó that’s protected under
the constitution, local indigenous groups say. They started a
mobilization to stop the military-backed operation.
According to local indigenous and afro-colombian communities, the
mining activities of the U.S. company are threatening the
environment of the mountains the company wants to mine and endangers
the possibility for the communities to live there. They say the mining
will pollute the waters they use for drinking, washing and fishing and
will basically displace them.
Most of the Afro-Colombians living in the area earlier were
displaced from other parts in the west of Colombia because of violence.
The dispute in the Jiguamiandó river basin between the indigenous
Embera Oibida tribes and Muriel Mining began earlier
this week when Embera communities began mobilizing outside
the Cerro de Carreperro mountains in an effort to stop the exploration
of the mountain for gold and copper resources by the mining company,
who had entered the zone on January 5.
The mobilized indigenous communities state that
Muriel Mining Corporation has failed to properly consult them to
receive permission to enter their ancestral territories, autonomous
reservations which are protected by the constitution and subsequent national and
international decrees, laws, and statutes.
On the other is the Colombian State and Muriel Mining Corporation, who claim that the mining corporation did properly consult the
representatives of the communities, if not the communities themselves,
and has followed the letter of the law.
“We have letters of agreement from indigenous authorities in the
Camical that have permitted the exploration process,” Pedro Lemous, a
representative of Muriel Mining Corporation says.
But Embera leaders state that the company fraudulently set
up meetings with only some members of the communities, and that these
representatives failed to follow the Embera´s traditional consensus
based decision-making process, a process that is protected by law.
“The cabildo mayors have never arrived to directly speak with us. We
don´t know them. This is a grand error that the legal representatives
are committing in the cities,” an indigenous representative said,
speaking on conditions of anonymity and citing security concerns.
no we are not with the company. We have never arrived at a point to be
with them and we will never arrive at the point where we will sign.”
The dispute came to a head on January 9 when a mobilized group of
Embera marched from Coredocito to the foot of the Cerro de Carreperro
mountains to confront Muriel Mining Corporation. But they were turned
away by the 15th Brigade of the Colombian Army, who dispatched a
regiment to the region on January 5 to protect the mining company´s
“If Muriel Mining does not end its exploration of our sacred
lands, we will go up to the mountain and remove the machines
ourselves,” one indigenous women said. “This is why we are here, these
things are not legal. We did consult with the communities.”
The indigenous threaten to mobilize hundreds of members of neighboring tribes if their demands aren’t taken seriously.
NGOs previously have accused Muriel Mining of having violated numerous rights of indigenous people in the Urabá area and using paramilitary death squads to repress local populations.
by David Goodner and Megan Felt