African descent community faces eviction by Anglo Gold Ashanti in Colombia
From the human rights team of the Process of Black Communities and other organizations:
The displacement of the black community of the rural neighborhood of La Toma in the municipality of Suarez, in the northern part of the Cauca department, is scheduled for the 6th of August, 2009. The residents of this neighborhood have been declared ´squatters in bad faith´ in a legal possession order taken out by Raúl Fernando Ruiz Ordoñez and Jesús Sarria. Yet the presence of black communities on these lands dates from 1636. Since then, they have worked small gold mines which todayis the only means of subsistence for hundreds of families.
The black community´s territory in the La Toma district consists of 7,000 hectares, some 6,500 hectares of which, including the cemetery, are sought by Anglo Gold Ashanti for exploration purposes. The company has found a fast-track to an immediate start to operations, via two mining concessions together making up 403 hectares. They are concession EKE-151 (314 hectares) held by Raúl Fernando Ruiz Ordoñez, and concession BFC 021 (99 hectares) held by Héctor Jesús Sarria. Neither of these concession holders are linked with the community, nor have they carried out any mine exploration or exploitation activities. Rather, in light of the known Anglo Gold Ashanti interest, these two gentlemen have initiated a legal process of expropriation that will stop the afro-colombian miners from developing the work that they have carried out for generations in this district.
Anglo Gold Ashanti and the Canadian owned company Cosigo Resort have been pressing for the take-over of other territories in Suárez, and the neighboring municipalities of Buenos Aires and Santander. None of the moves by these mining corporations respect the right of the black communities to consulta previa (prior consultation), the guarantee set out in ILO Convention 169, as recognized by Colombia´s constitution, and elaborated in Law 70 passed in 1993.
This is not the first wave of evictions from this region. In the 1980s the construction of the nearby La Salvajina dam and reservoir system displaced hundreds of families to the urban slums of Agua Blanca in Cali and other cities. The environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of this hydroelectric project have still not been addressed by the operating company CVC (Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Cauca) or the Colombian state. In 1994 the Salvajina project was taken over by Energía Eléctrica del Pacifico-EPSA (in turn owned by Spanish multinacional). EPSA tried to divert the Ovejas river that runs by La Toma in order to augment Salvajina´s generating capacity.
Before Salvajina, the afro-colombians native to this region sustained themselves through fishing, agriculture, ferrying and mining; after the dam´s construction much of the best farming land was flooded under the reservoir and there were drastic climate changes; both of which led to a crisis in traditional farming. For most of the black community the only remaining means of making a living was through artisanal gold mining. Besides the predicted environmental impacts from the open cast mining that Anglo Gold Ashanti and similar multinationals want to undertake, this artisanal mining would disappear and the black communities would be displaced entirely from their territories.
In Judgement No 005 of 2009, Colombia´s Constitutional Court stated a number of contributing factors tending to cause the displacement of afro-colombians including structural exclusion, the pressures generated by big mining and agriculture, and deficient legal protection for the collective territories of the black communities. The Constitutional Court drew special attention to the situation of the black communities who are the ancestral inhabitants of Buenos Aires and Suárez as an emblematic case; these communities are a clear and living example of the risks pointed out by the Court of the vulnerability of territorial rights, the loss of social and cultural control by the communities, the violation of their right to prior consultation, and the absence of registration of ancestral territories that even now have not been recognized as collective property.
The Constitutional Court ordered that there be effective participation of the communities, and set in motion a plan of monitoring that would take into account the general factors and the specific risks identified in its Judgement 005. The Court ordered that the territorial rights of the afro-colombian communities be protected through the design of a plan to be implemented by 30 October 2009, characterizing the lands as ancestral territory, of ethnic significance and part of the patrimony of these communities.
The artisanal gold mines constitute one of the last common goods still conserved by the black communities of northern Cauca. Their eviction from La Toma would be one more link in the historic chain of unjust expropriations that should be blocked by determined action by all the communities.
We call on all afro-colombian organizations, leaders and other social sectors nationally and internationally to take action to demand:
1. That the Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy revoke the mining concessions EKE-151 held by Raúl Fernando Ruiz Ordoñez and BFC 021 held by Héctor Jesús Sarria, on the grounds that there has not been prior consultation with the black communities living on these territories.
2. That the Ministry of Mines and Energy definitively stop the order to evict the black communities of the Corregimiento (district) of La Toma, located in the Suárez municipality in the north of Cauca department.
3. That the Ministry of the Interior, Justice and Social Action immediately fulfill the the Constitutional Court Judgement No 005, by formulating an action plan of attention and protection of these communities, putting in place the measures organized by the Court to protect the territory and the patrimony of the communities.
4. The application of Consultation with Free, Prior and Informed Consent in accord with ILO Convention 169 and the national Constitution in the case of any process concerning the exploration and exploitation of mining resources, and other projects and political or administrative measures that might affect the black communities.
5. That the Ministry of the Interior adopt measures for the protection of the life and security of community leaders in the region.
With our traditional affirmation of Life, Happiness, Hope and Freedom /
Con nuestra tradicional afirmación de Vida y Alegría, Esperanza y Libertad
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO DE LA TOMA
ASOCIACION DE CONSEJOS COMUNITARIOS DEL NORTE DEL CAUCA
PALENKE DEL ALTO CAUCA
PALENQUE EL KONGAL
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO CUENCA DEL YURUMANGUI
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO CUENCA DEL MAYORQUIN
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO MAYOR CUENCA DEL ANCHICAYA
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO CUENCA DEL CALIMA
CONSEJO COMUNITARIO BAJO MIRA Y FRONTERAS
CORPORACION PALENQUE SIGLO XXI
PROCESO DE COMUNIDADES NEGRAS EN COLOMBIA PCN
FEDERACION AGROMINERA DEL SUR DE BOLIVAR
CORDINADOR NACIONAL AGRARIO. CNA
CAMPAÑA PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR
PAZ CON DIGNIDAD
RECOMMENDED ACTION / ACCION SOLICITADA
Please send to the following emails/ Estos son los correos de los
funcionarios que debieran comunicarse
Director of Black Community, afro-colombian, Palenquera and Race affairs/Dirección para asuntos de Comunidades Negras, Afrocolombianas, Palenqueras
Human Rights Director/Dirección de derechos Humanos. Rafael Emiro
Vice Minister of Justice/Viceministro de Justicia: Miguel Antonio Ceballos Arévalo
Please copy the following address. For more information please contact:/ Si se requiere la
Translated by Colombia Solidarity Campaign <http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/> . The Campaign adds: please also send a brief message with the above demands to the Colombian Embassy in your country.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621