Colombian opposition senator Jorge Robledo on Tuesday told President Juan Manuel Santos to “respect the democratic will of the people of Piedras” who over the weekend voted to ban mining company AngloGold Ashanti from their municipality.
On Sunday, the people of Piedras from the Tolima department of Colombia voted unanimously to deny mining rights to the multinational corporation AngloGold Ashanti. After months of sniping between both sides it appeared as though the popular vote had settled the outcome for good.
However in a dramatic turn of events, there is every possibilty that this democratic process will be overturned or ignored by the government. This is because of what Colombian news sources have labeled “a collision of two constitutional principles: regional autonomy and the right of the state.”
So what does this mean for the people of Piedras? In immediate terms, it means that the vote is not the last word on the situation. In fact it has recently emerged that the mining minister Federico Renjifo has said that “there are others in the country who can decide whether to exclude an area from mining – that does not include the people of Piedras.”
Indeed, the attorney general’s office has reportedly warned the mayor of Piedras, Archimedes Avila, that he “may be committing an abuse of power by promoting activities within his municipality against mining.”
The ANM (National Mining Agency) is the government body responsible for declaring mining sites “areas of national interest” and can apparently supercede decisions that are made against mining. To be declared an area of national interest a mining site need only make one of six criteria as laid out by the ANM which news-website Semana Sostenible describes as “extremely easy” to fulfill at least one.
Subsequently, Robledo wrote a letter to Santos in which he described the governments stance towards small scale mining as “tough and uncompromising” while “defending” the actions of large mining firms. He also accused minister Renjifo for “dismissing the wishes” of the people of Piedras who voted against AngloGold Ashanti’s La Colosa project.
In a strongly written letter to Santos, Robledo has called upon the president to respect the decision of the people and uphold their vote. Local news has speculated however that the Santos’ silence on the matter is an indication that the process will prove insufficient by itself.
- Minería: las exigencias de Robledo a Santos (Semana)
- Robledo exige al Gobierno respetar decisión popular sobre minería en Piedras, Tolima (Radio Caracol)
- 40 proyectos mineros fueron declarados de ‘interés nacional’ (Semana Sostenible)
- Consulta popular insuficiente (El Espectador)
- Hay que atender las causas de las protestas agrarias y mineras (Polo Democratico)