The Embera Oibida community of Alto Guayabal-Coredocito and Urada in the Jiguamiandó River basin declare NO PROSPECTING OR MINING on indigenous lands

(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator)

The purpose of the Mande Norte project is to mine copper, gold, and by-products such as molybdenum and other minerals including pyrites, calcopyrites, Bornite, molybdenite and malachite in three zones – Quebrada La Rica, Taparos-Batatal and Jarapetó – in the Carmen del Darién (Chocó) jurisdiction and one in Murindó (Antioquia). This large-scale mining project contemplates 16,000 hectares suitable for intervention, but which at the same time are traditional lands of indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, which they have occupied ancestrally.

Since 1975 these communities’ lands have been in the sights of international private corporations which have carried out studies for the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mines, Ingeominas. These firms include the Panamanian CYPRUS Minera, which started mining activities through the United States mining company ANTACORI CORPORATION, the Cuban registered GEOMINERA and, since 2005, MURIEL MINING CORPORATIÓN (MMC), which has been granted 9 mining permits entitling it to prospect and mine the subsoil under mining concession contracts.

These concession contracts correspond to agreements signed by Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, which grant concessionaires – in this case MMC, exclusive rights to extract and transport minerals. According to the Colombian mining code, these rights are for 30 years from the date of the entry in the Mine Register.

The indigenous communities and the Jiguamiandó Senior Community Council have, emphatically and on more than one occasion, declared their position with regard to this concession and have said NO TO PROSPECTING AND MINING with regard to the Mandé Norte project. Although the company has claimed that it will not operate in the Usa Kira located in the upper part of the Embera de Urada–Jiguamiandó indigenous reserve in the sector called Alto Guayabal, the planned mining operations will target 11,000 hectares of land belonging to this native people and cause serious environmental disturbances and impact adversely part of their territory and their identity.

The many potential impacts include damage to the river headwaters, the springs that serve as direct sources of water for consumption by the communities. Contamination of these headwaters would harm their food crops, animals and health, and entail loss of the basis of the subsistence economy and their existence. Over the 30 years the project is planned to last, mining would losing their territory and handing it over to the company, which is a weighty argument for the communities to reject any mining operations.

The communities affected have notified the government and the companies involved that they denounce any agreement or understanding entered into by members of the community unless they have consulted, and been authorised by, all its members.

The Ethnicities Department (Dirección de Etnias) of the Interior and Justice Ministry, which is the body with competence to undertake the prior consultation has held 3 meetings, the first in March 2006, followed by others in June 2006 and September 2007. Ten delegates from each community were invited to attend. However, the prior consultation proceedings have not been conducted properly. Not all the community has participated, which means a failure to comply with the provisions of ILO Convention 169 stating that “It is not enough to talk to a few inhabitants, because they do not represent the majority opinion, no siendo esto una verdadera consulta.  No se ha respetado el principio de representatividad y no se tiene el consentimiento pleno y debidamente informado de los interesados“.
A the meeting held in September 2007, in the municipality of Carmen del Darién, a document started to circulate among those present called “Proposal by the indigenous communities to the prior consultation meeting called by the Interior and Juztice (sic) Ministry and the National Department for Ethnicities to be analysed by the mining company Le Muriel which is at the prospecting stage in the Mandé Norte project“. This document sets out the following points: (the Cerro Careperro hills will not be touched, there will be no water pollution, they will respect the communities’ ways of life and cultural traditions, there will be no ecological damage to fauna or crops and labour will be hired in the community; the results of studies will be socialised with the communities, reparation or damages will be paid to the communities and the companies will support the development of projects to improve the life of the indigenous communities).

This document was intended to be signed by those present so that the mining company could embark on the prospecting stage. However, the community did not agree because – as it has already said – it does not want any kind of mining and not all those involved were present at the meeting.

Despite this, Muriel Mining Corporación (MMC) is pursuing dialogues with members of the communities and has presented minutes of meetings that were not held where these members were in agreement with the company. These agreements are improper, null and have been manipulated by those with an interest in seeing the project executed.

Evidently the agreements between certain members of the communities and the company are intended to negotiate without consensus, without prior consultation and without real guarantees. It is the State’s constitutional function to guarantee these rights to indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples.

Given the lack of guarantees, the lack of clarity, the denial of the right to prior consultation, the indigenous communities of the Urada-Jiguamiandó reserve have stated their position.

Next February the black communities of the Jiguamiandó Council, Embera indigenous communities of Coredocito-Alto Guayabal, Urada and others affected by the project will hold an internal consultation to decide on measures to respond to the illegal acts of these government bodies and private organisations.

We are attaching a letter from the indigenous communities to the Ethnicities Department of the Interior and Justice Ministry,

Inter-Ecclesiastical Justice and Peace Commission

Bogota, 19 December, 2007

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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