Colombia

Large-scale mining in Colombia: Human rights violations past, present and future

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The large-scale mining industry and human rights violations in Colombia

Today, May 9th, 2013, the US Office on Colombia releases its latest report, Large-scale mining in Colombia: Human rights violations past, present and future, which reveals shocking trends in human rights violations associated with large-scale mining throughout the country. Through careful case studies, the report underscores high incidences of 1) dispossession and displacement, 2) repeated violations of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people's rights to free, prior and informed consent and 3) stigmatization, unfounded criminal proceedings and extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders. Among the cases, the report includes an analysis of the atrocities committed by US coal company Drummond, which has been implicated in cases of environmental degradation and collaboration with paramilitaries in the assassination of civilians. Recognizing that the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement encourages increased investment by US companies, the report makes important recommendations to corporations and the US government about critical safeguards needed to avoid contributing to human rights abuses in Colombia.

Large-scale mining in Colombia: Human rights violations past, present and future comes soon after the release of a high-level report by the Colombian Comptroller's Office expressing concern that companies, state institutions and illegal armed groups' interests may sometimes converge and produce alliances that seek to depopulate territories with strategic mineral wealth. In fact, the Comptroller's report found that 80% of human rights violations in 2011 took place in municipalities with existing mining projects. Moreover, that 78% of crimes against union organizers, 89% of attacks against indigenous peoples and 90% of offenses against Afro-descendents took place in areas where mining has recently replaced agriculture and fishing. Substantiating these correlations, USOC's Large-scale mining in Colombia provides an in-depth account of how these violations arise.

Regarding the devastating impact of unregulated extractive industries in Colombia exposed in the report, Executive Director, Dana Brown, noted that "without proper regulations, the future of the Colombian conflict will surround access to natural resources, with escalating tensions between the state and foreign capital's interest in extracting minerals in massive proportions and communities' fight to enjoy access to water, arable land and a healthy ecosystem." We invite you to read our report and learn more about this extremely pertinent issue.

Large-scale mining in Colombia: Human rights violations past, present and future

Introduction

Large-scale mining is officailly considered one of five "engines" of the Colombian Economy. During the last twelve years, over 1.5 million hectares of Colombian land have been sold off to large-scale mining corporations for exploration and exploitation of Colombia's extensive mineral deposits, changing drastically the landscape of landownership and use in Colombia's countryside. Everything from emeralds to coal to gold is mined throughout Colombia, often in pristine ecosystems such as forests or tropical mountain ranges. This investment in large-scale mining is hugely controversial in Colombia for a wide variety of reasons ranging from environmental concerns to labor standards, to community consent and the economic displacement of artisanal mining, which has traditionally been an important source of income for many Afro-Colombian communities. However, one aspect of the mining boom that has been little explored is its potential effect of the human rights situation in Colombia. Amidst an ongoing civil conflict which is closely tied to issues of land tenure and access to resources, uncontrolled mining threatens to usher in Colombia's next big human rights crisis.

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