Why the mining project in La Colosa should not be allowed

(Translated by Silvaine Zimmermann, a CSN volunteer translator)

By Yuri Navarro and Alexey Bridges
Environmental geologist.
The environment is an intangible asset belonging to all mankind

 Wednesday March 4, 2009  

As a Colombian citizen, as a professional in the field of geology, and a resident of the town of El Espinal (Tolima), which is in the area of influence of the Colosa mine, I have written to the Ministry of Environment requesting that no exploration or mining should be authorized in those areas designated as environmentally protected or restricted for the development of renewable natural resources.

Some reasons for this request are as follows:
Exploration stage
It involves the removal of approximately 515 acres of forest reserve in Andean forests and wilderness areas, whose soils are characterized by a high content of organic matter, which play an important role in water regulation for the Coello River Basin.

In this type of project, in order to recover one gram of gold, one ton of earth is removed; so if the project is to be profitable, more than 300 million tons of earth will have to be removed, using around 800 thousand tons of dynamite, which has an impact on the ecosystem that we do not know how to mitigate.

In the concession area there are 161 natural drainage areas that provide water to different socio-economic activities that are performed in the department of Tolima, such as aqueducts for the municipalities of Espinal and Coello and soon the alternate aqueduct of Ibague as well. Moreover, as a result of the use of the Usocoello irrigation district’s water resources (an area of 63 hectares), approximately 1,800 farmers and other users of the district who plant rice, sorghum and fruits, will enter into crisis due to the ensuing pollution and scarcity of water resources.
Operational phase
The exploitation or extraction process can last 20 years, which will affect 9,500 hectares around the base zone located on the El Diamante, in the municipality of Cajamarca.

To extract the gold (which is scattered in small amounts in rocks) given its low tenor, will be by open pit mining methods and the use of cyanide and other lethal toxic substance. These, when in contact with eyes, skin or inhaled, also destroys wildlife.

Finally, I endorse the 20 points presented by the Prosecutor’s Office for Environmental Affairs, Claudia Cristina Serrano Evers in a letter to Bertha Cruz Forero, director of Ecosystem Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, in which she relates to the possible effects on our natural resources if the removal of the work area from the protected zone is authorized and approved for exploration and gold mining.

The representative of the Attorney General notes that the technical reports conclude that "the impacts that would be generated by mining the (environmentally protected) area would be negative and they would be massive (on a large scale)":

1. Irreversible alteration and destruction of native environments in the area of operation, and impacts on adjacent natural environments s such as the transfer of highly noxious agents via processes of infiltration, runoff and wind transport.

2. Deforestation of large areas of native forests, secondary forests and moors. This deforestation would cause unique biotopes to disappear from the ecosystems in question, whose highly adapted biodiversity has a relatively low rate of metabolism.

3. Removal of vegetation buffer exacerbates the effects of erosion and sedimentation.

4. Reduction in surface area, volume and density of the original ecological forest cover. The smaller endemic environments that exist, the greater the loss of biodiversity.

5. Loss of vegetation cover, which causes the drainage of surface water and groundwater to be altered to a high degree, thus leading to sudden increases or decreases in availability of water resources for the communities within the area of direct influence of the project .

6. Loss of biodiversity alpha, gamma and beta, mainly birds, amphibians and macroinvertebrates.

7. Contamination of water bodies in the area of direct and indirect influence of the project, with sediment, heavy metals, solid waste and pathogens.

8. Changes in the hydraulic structure of the soil.

9. Soil compaction.

10. Alteration of temperature.

11. Alteration of texture and structure.

12. Reduction of interception and infiltration capacity of the ground.

13. Geomorphologically irreversible changes in ecological time between one and one hundred years, only recoverable in centuries and millennia.

14. Distortion of surface and ground water basins.

15. Air pollution emissions from mobile and stationary sources of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and particulate matter.

16. Routine and accidental contamination of surface and groundwater, soil and biota with hazardous waste residuals. There will be contamination due to acid drainage which would solubilize (dissolve-dislodge) heavy metals in the rock thus increase to the inherent  pollution load (cyanide).

17. Accidents could occur during the transport of dangerous substances (cyanide).

18. Accidental spills in the area of operation.

19. Irreversible destruction of landscape mosaics, of the cryptosystem and phynosystems as well as the aesthetic (environmental) perception of the affected site.

20. Generation of hazardous waste repositories whose contents are released during varying periods of time despite the use of geomembranes and other containment systems, even decades after the cessation of operations.

Let us reflect: It’s a shame that the Government obliges us to play the  lottery so that Colombians have healthcare, that it forces us to drink liquor, to get drunk so that our children have education and now …? Could it be that we must deliver our planet’s lungs (which is what the special forest reserve area is) so that the people of Cajamarca can collect on few miserly royalties? "In exchange for more polluting our planet? Recall that the environment is an intangible asset of the province of all mankind!

History will prove us right!


Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

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