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Potential Negative Effects of Mining the Paramo de Santurban on the Sustainability of Colombia
Table of Contents
The purpose of this report is to show how mining can affect the main source of water in Colombia, Páramo the Santurbán, resulting in environmental, economic and social issues. Besides, this report gives some possible solutions or actions to prevent. The government has delimited 76 % of the Paramo de Santurban in 2014 until now (Castaño 2014). However, the mining company Minesa is trying to change this limitation (Ruiz 2018b), allowing more mining projects along the area, leading to a possible contamination of the water. In addition, illegal mining is also increasing due to this limitation (Ruiz 2018a). At the same time, different opinions between the community and miners have resulted in confrontations since Minesa and the Canadian company Greystar (now Eco Oro) are expecting to get at least 7.7 million ounces of gold (Ferreria 2018). As a result, economic and social sustainability are affected since some of the population around the region are trying to support the project while others are against it. This report focuses on the growth of the problem, describe the current state with the current solutions and what could be the possible impacts in the future with some measures to take into account to avoid any other issue.
The data used for this research is secondary data. The information is obtained from online newspaper articles. The main articles were used from Vanguardia since it provides accurate and reliable information.
2. Case Study
Mining near regions with important water sources is a topic that has been polemic in Colombia for many years now, especially in the surroundings of the Páramo de Santurbán. Paramos are a vital ecosystem to maintain the water cycle that create the different lakes and rivers, which provide water to around 70% of the population in Colombia (CIEL 2017). Moreover, it mitigates the climate change and it has a hundred of threatened species like spectacled bear (AIDA n.d). The problem started since multinationals have been taking part of mining. Between 1990 and 2007, the Canadian company Greystar acquired permissions in the Angostura project, trying to exploit the region’s gold resource (CIEL 2017). In 2009, Greystar had a problem with the gully located in Móngora (Vetas). Their mining project in the zone resulted in the contamination of the water by mud due to an unexpected geologic fault (Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales 2018). In 2011, the environmental license was denied to Greystar, which changed its name to Eco Oro, together with the local company Minesa. This decision was influenced by AIDA, which is the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA 2013). Minesa and Greystar were trying to take more land of the paramo to extract, by their estimate, large amounts of gold without giving any security about the protection of the zone (Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales 2018). As a result, in 2014, the government decided to delimit the area as a possible solution to preserve it. However, since problems related to illegal mining and corruption have been increasing, the government has been trying to change this limitation, resulting in possible threats (Castaño 2014).
2.2 Current state
During 2017, Minister of Mines Germán Arce, had a reunion with representatives from Mudabala, which is the group that provides economic support to Minesa. The purpose of the meeting was to look for an agreement to extract gold in an allowed area of the Páramo (Amorocho & Aguirre 2017). However, the environmentalist Nelson Vivas (as cited in Amorocho & Aguirre 2017) stated that the delimitation of the paramo was to protect nation water source. At the same time, Nestor Ocampo (as cited in Amorocho & Aguirre 2017) referred to this as ‘bad news’ because he noted that government is not paying attention to the community since they are benefiting the mining. He also stated that the problem is not if the mining is in an allowed zone, it is the paramo that provides water to most of the people in the country are in a high risk to be contaminated due to the mining project in the region.
At the of 2018, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, together with the Minister of Interior decided that in 2019 will start a new process to change the delimitation of the Páramo de Santurbán. This resulted from factors related to farms, agriculture and the mining sector, looking for increase the economy of the region. Resulting in a reunion where different communities can take part of it (Redacción Economía 2018).
2.3 Future impacts
In the Páramo de Santurbán, the complicated rock distribution, being caused by geological faults make the mining something difficult to do without polluting the water (Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales 2018). Consequently, if the projects are approved, mining will destroy numerous undocumented plants and animal species (Kraul 2014). Duque (2011) stated which the consequences are more likely to occur. Some of them are: modification of of the physic the topography and alteration and chemical components of the ground, causing infertility and allowing contaminants reach the water. She also noted that as a consequence, there will be some social issues. Migration and social conflicts are the main points, plus the impact that the pollution can bring to people health. As a result, mining represent a high risk since it has high degree to bring more problems than solutions.
In conclusion, the issues related to the mining in the Paramo de Santurban will continue due to the corruption and the influence of multinational companies. Althought mining projects have been reduced in the last years, the temptation of getting large amounts of money will be always the desire of a corrupted government. As a result, many people will be affected, resulting in confrontations, health problems
A number of recommendations are presented in this report to protect and prevent any future issues related to the contamination of the water in the Páramo de Santurbán. First of all, the completely delimitation of the area, causing the preservation of the biodiversity of the zone together with the nation main water source. Secondly, it is important to look for alternatives activities instead of mining for the people living around the region. Farming can be considered as a viable solution since it has less impact on the ground and for future generations. Another recommendation is to improve local companies since multinationals have been taking part of the issue, causing social and economic issues. Lastly, awareness campaigns to let the people know what the impacts of mining really are, plus awareness of how to use and preserve the water clean. Improving local business and campaigns will prevent people of doing illegal mining. Therefore, Páramos are important ecosystems that government and citizens should protect, if they really want to preserve a stable country.
- Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense n.d, Protecting the Santurban Paramo from mining’s damages, AIDA, viewed 22 January 2019, https://aida-americas.org/en/protecting-santurban-p-ramo-minings-damages
- Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense 2013, Protecting Andean ecosystems and communities from mining’s impact, AIDA, viewed 22 January 2019, https://aida-americas.org/en/protecting-andean-ecosystems-and-communities-minings-impact
- Amorocho, J & Aguirre, R 2017, ‘Mining in Santurban continues, despite rejection by enviromentalists’, Elcolombiano, 14 November, viewed 21 January 2019, http://www.elcolombiano.com/colombia/mineria-en-santurban-sigue-pese-a-rechazo-de-los-ambientalistas-XN7681707
- Castaño, D 2014, ‘With the delimitation, mining has a ‘door’ ajar in Santurban’, Vanguardia, 20 December, viewed 19 January 2019, https://www.vanguardia.com/economia/local/con-la-delimitacion-la-mineria-tiene-una-puerta-entreabierta-en-santurban-DRVL292032
- Center for International Environmental Law 2017, Protecting the Colombian Paramo from Eco Oro Mining, CIEL, viewed 22 January 2019, https://www.ciel.org/project-update/eco-oro/
- Duque, M 2011, ‘Mining in the Paramo de Santurban: Not viable!’, Razonpublica, 24 January, viewed 21 January 2019, https://razonpublica.com/index.php/econom-y-sociedad-temas-29/1717-mineria-en-el-paramo-de-santurban-ino-viable.html
- Ferreria, D 2018, ‘On Santurban: the wasteland, desperately’, El Espectador, 28 March, viewed 19 January 2019, https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/noticias-de-cultura/sobre-santurban-el-paramo-desesperadamente-articulo-747030
- Kraul, C 2014, Mining Showdown in Andes Over Unique Paramo Lands, YaleEnvironment360, viewed 22 January 2019, https://e360.yale.edu/features/mining_showdown_in_andes_over_unique_paramo_lands
- Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales 2018, ‘Small mining: cornerstone of the environmental conflict in Santurban?’, Semana Sostenible, 20 March, viewed 19 January 2019, https://sostenibilidad.semana.com/medio-ambiente/articulo/paramo-de-santurban-la-pequena-mineria-es-la-piedra-angular-del-conflicto-ambiental/39723
- Redacción Economía 2018, ‘In January, the Paramo delimitation will be ‘socialized’’, Vanguardia, 22 Decemeber, viewed 21 January 2019, https://www.vanguardia.com/economia/local/en-enero-se-socializara-delimitacion-del-paramo-DCVL453660
- Ruiz, L 2018a, ‘Law of Paramos leaves in suspense the small mines of Santander’, Vanguardia, 29 June, viewed 19 January 2019, https://www.vanguardia.com/economia/local/ley-de-paramos-deja-en-vilo-a-los-pequenos-mineros-de-santander-FEVL437367
- Ruiz, L 2018b, ‘Community of Santurban asks that the right to participated not be violated’, Vanguardia, 10 October, viewed 19 January 2019, https://www.vanguardia.com/economia/local/comunidad-de-santurban-pide-que-no-se-vulnere-derecho-de-participacion-EBVL447355
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