(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Monday, February 8, 2016 – 08:23 PM
The Constitutional Court, sitting en banc, tonight overturned the provision contained in the 2014-2018 Development Plan that allowed certain mining activities in the páramo area.
This decision involves a paragraph in Article 173 which provides that in the interior of an area identified as páramo, such activities as exploration and exploitation of nonrenewable resources are permitted only if they are covered by contracts and environmental permits issued before February 9, 2010; or, with respect to mining, if they were issued before June 16, 2011.
With a presentation by Justice Gloria Ortíz, the Court endorsed a provision in that same Article stating that the Ministry of the Environment is to limit the areas of the páramos to the interior of the reference maps generated by the Alexander Van Humboldt Institute.
The Court endorsed the Projects of National and Strategic Interest (PINE is the Spanish acronym) and the creation of a national system for the projects as a strategy for these initiatives of whether their origin is public, private, or mixed, as long as they are selected by the National Government, because of their high impact on the economic and social development of the country.
Nevertheless, the Court invalidated Article 51 of the Development Plan. Article 51 empowered the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA is the Spanish acronym) to handle the so-called “express environmental licenses”, required by the PINE.
Likewise, the Court overturned two paragraphs of Article 50. The paragraphs indicated that when a parcel is included in the Projects of National and Strategic Interest (PINE), that parcel is no longer subject to restitution and therefore the Land Restitution Unit is obligated to compensate the victims with a parcel in a similar condition.
The Court held that the National Mining Authority determines which are the Areas of Strategic Reserve, but with the understanding that for this purpose there must be a procedure for prior consultation with the local municipal authorities where they are to be located, so as to guarantee that their ability to regulate land use will not be affected.
In addition, if the Authority has identified any such areas prior to this decision, there has to be consultation with local authorities before the objective selection process for mining concessions. And the Authority and the Mining Ministry must guarantee that in every case, the definition of areas and the areas themselves are compatible with the territorial land use regulations.
The Court ruled on a suit by the Democratic Polo Party challenging Articles 20, 49, 50, 51, 52 and 173 of State 1753 adopted in 2015 (Development Plan) and Article 108 of Statute 1450 adopted in 2011.