After a lengthy dispute with global mega-firm AngloGold Ashanti, the people of the central Colombian town of Piedras passed a referendum to halt the mining company’s ambitions in their municipality for good.
AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) has consistently insisted that they “100% owned” the La Colosa site near Piedras, Tolima, despite having been investigated for illegal mining activity earlier this year.
In March of this year, the company was investigated for what was described as “illegal mining exploration” when they secretly installed two drilling platforms, as well as other industrial processes, without alerting the local environmental authority.
Potentially damaging the fragile agricultural site with this activity, the mining company was also accused of using drinking water for industrial purposes without seeking prior permission.
Back in February, a spokesperson for AGA told this website that “we have no secrets and have had several public meetings to share with the communities and the authorities what we are doing. We will continue meeting with the people to provide further information as we advance on our work. We cannot provide information on aspects or decisions that require further analysis.”
The argument between the two sides has been a lengthy, drawn out affair with frequent tit-for-tat dialogue. Initial activity and mining investigation had sparked protests that eventually led to road blockades and impediment of movement for AGA personnel. This in turn sparked a legal battle when company representatives accused local authorities of “not doing enough” to prevent locals from “halting the freedom of movement” of company personnel.
As there is only one source of water in the area, locals had feared that any mining activities would almost certainly pollute the local area and ruin their means of income and way of life.
Sunday saw a Colombian precedent as a referendum passed the motion to stop mining activities on the La Colosa greenfield site. Of the potential 5,105 eligible voters, 2971 people voted against the company’s plans while just 24 voted in support of AGA’s mining plans.
According to Law 134 of 1994, this decision is legally binding. This is due to the fact that at least a third of eligible voters took part and the motion was passed by securing at least 50% of the vote. AGA were defeated by a colossal 99.1% of the vote.
So far, no-one from AGA has been able to comment.