Colombia’s Supreme Court authorized the continuation of destroying machines used in illegal mining activities, according to local media reports on Friday.
The Supreme Court ruled against an action filed to seek temporary suspension of Decree 2235, a law passed in 2012 at the insistence of President Juan Manuel Santos, which tasks the Colombian government, specifically its police and military forces, with the destruction of any and all mechanized equipment involved in illegal and unauthorized mining activity, reported Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper.
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling found that although Decree 2235 does not establish the destruction of mining machinery, the State has the power to impose penalties regarding environmental infringements and therefore grants authority to the National Police to destroy such machines if deemed appropriate.
Santos’ administration has repeatedly claimed illegal mining is the primary source of revenue for armed groups within the country, yet Conaminercol, Colombia’s national mining union, claims that as many as three million Colombians live directly off of income from what the miners call “informal,” but the government calls “illegal” mining.
In June 2013, Colombia’s “informal” or “illegal” miners went on strike to protest unfair treatment under Decree 2235, a month before the country was paralyzed by widespread strikes involving various sectors of Colombia’s workforce.
The problem, as far as Conaminercol is concerned, is that the government has not made any distinction between mining being conducted under the extortion of groups such as the FARC and ELN, which evidence indicates is every bit as profitable as the Santos administration claims it is, and medium-scale and artisan mining, the likes of which have been practiced in what is now Colombia for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
“We in Colombia were miners long before Colombus, and now, law after law we see our rights disappearing, up until Decree 2235, which violates every natural human right there is […] that decree, 2235, is a national embarrassment, a shame on our people,” said Conaminercol spokesman Ricaurte Tirado in a 2013 interview with Colombia Reports.