(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
Marmato, January 25, 2011.
Guided by the dignity of the Colombian people, and under the flag of the defense of our national sovereignty, individuals, organizations and social networks join in support of the Civic Committee For The Defense of Marmato. This is a decisive moment for this Colombian city and we express our total and unquestioned support for the people of Marmato in the fight for the defense of their territory, their traditions and their way of life and subsistence against the attacks by the Canadian company, Medoro Resources. Clearly they intend to displace this community, which has lived here for centuries, in order to carry out an open pit mine operation right within our municipal limits.
The undersigned individuals and organizations reject the methods that this and other companies have employed in this town ever since they arrived. They use techniques that have caused widespread anxiety, trying to divide the community by selling dreams of development and progress. At various times they have also created social and economic chaos without any parallel in the history of Marmato. These events have only been overcome by the tenacity and enterprise of the people, much more than by the support of the government, which has been painfully absent in the last few years.
The closing of 84 mines by the former company – Colombia Goldfields – whose shareholders make up part of Medoro, has resulted in unemployment for more than 800 people and in the destruction of nine mills and several properties. This is an unmistakable reflection of the intentions that these kinds of companies have in countries like ours. By their use of tools such as fear, coercion, and co-opting people, they are trying to satisfy private interests in the deterioration of the general well being. We also object to the tactics that this and other companies of this kind are using in the places where they go with the objective of gaining the support of local governments, overwhelming them with flattery and plum jobs. We emphatically call on municipal, provincial and national authorities to refuse these deals, many of which are illegal.
We are using this unity meeting to demand scrupulousness and objectivity in the face of the campaign of media disinformation that Medoro has orchestrated against the people of Marmato and we regret that the Colombian government echoes their assurances, which lack any technical and scientific basis and lend themselves to giving free rein to the interests of a foreign company, diminishing the well-being of the local community. We observe that that is how they have managed to convince public opinion that Marmato is at the point of caving in because of geological problems and that it is necessary to relocate the population.
These assertions are false, and contradict the final report by Corpocaldas, which shows that there are very few high risk areas in Marmato and that in no way is the main part of the area at any risk that cannot be mitigated. Because of the mining activity that has been carried out in this area for centuries, there need to be controls to reduce and mitigate the risk in certain areas. But as the fierce rainy seasons and the earthquakes that Marmato has suffered have proved, the catastrophic events to be lament, as the different communications media have tried to show. We only need to recall the last rainy season that took place at the end of 2010, where we see how the rest of the country collapsed while Marmato remained firm and without any damage to be lamented. Along the same lines, we request that the media verify appropriately all of the information that they publish about Marmato, so that, whether by action or omission, they do not serve the private efforts that go counter to the national interest, and we demand their commitment to investigate all of the actors involved, the activities they are really carrying out, and what assertions of the involved parties are aimed at the possibility of carrying out open pit mining in this municipality.
We also point out that in this case they are trying to violate the legal impediments that inhibit this kind of exploitation in Marmato. One is Decree 2223 of 1954 that only permits subsistence mining in the high country. Paragraph 13 of Article 6 of the territorial development plan for Marmato, in effect until 2011, recognizes that “in the exploitation of medium scale mining, the future of Marmato, avoiding at all costs the exploitation by open pit mining; as a way to guarantee the permanence of the resource for future generations.” Subparagraph a) of Article 35 of the mining code does not permit mining within city limits, among other prohibitions. We urge the authorities to enforce the laws that protect this city and to make certain that individuals and companies do not carry out any actions that are contrary to these laws.
We will not accept the imposition on citizens of Marmato the change in the mining tradition of this area, where small and medium-sized mining companies use local employees. Both mining and the environment have lived together peacefully. With the proposed change, they are trying to achieve the monopolization of employment that would swallow up the town if Medoro as the only opportunity for work, and the work would be in an extraction process like open pit mining that requires far fewer employees. We point to the tragic consequences for biodiversity that large-scale mining brings. We denounce as illegitimate and unjust the conditions that the multinational companies are bringing to our country. In the case of gold mining, they pay royalties of barely 1% to 3.2% and their regulation and oversight are practically nil. (This fact is confirmed by audits such as the one by the Comptroller General of the Ministry of Mining and Engineering.)
Now they are trying to have President Santos centralize mining, depriving the provinces and municipalities of this income, creating a tax framework that will be adjusted so that these companies obtain enormous benefits not enjoyed by Colombian companies. This would create a new kind of colonization 500 years after the Spanish invaded our continent. We will not agree to this trade of gold for little mirrors and we regret that we have a government that endorses and urges neocolonialist measures that seek to appropriate the riches that ought to serve progress and national development. They are trying to subject us to the unjust model of rider and beast of burden, where the Colombian people serve as the animal. We believe that Colombian resources ought to serve Colombians, ought to look out for their well-being and that of the generations to come. Therefore, the resources of the people of Marmato ought first and foremost to benefit the people of Marmato.
The unity summit supports this fight to defend one and all of the residents of Marmato and to defend the local economy and the economy of the neighboring areas that largely depend on the dynamism of this municipality. This is a fight for the small miners who work faithfully in the mines that do not serve as a public utility or perform a social function. It is a fight for mines that are small businesses that create employment and local development, a fight for the miners who earn a fair wage by the sweat of their brow, a fight for the mule drivers who provide a transportation option, a fight for elderly people who can continue receiving income for their support, a fight for young people to assure them with opportunities for many more generations, a fight for the farmers who, with their hard work on the land provide food for the area, a fight for the women who ought to have better social and employment opportunities, a fight to preserve the cultural heritage of the native and Afro-Colombian people, a fight for merchants, transportation workers, teachers, students, and many others who have found Marmato to be a place of inclusion and support.
The social organizations and the Marmato community are ready to fight the policies of sacking and plunder that have been plotted against our people. We will use every civil and democratic means at our disposal to confront the plan to forcibly displace a town with hundreds of years of tradition and culture. We call upon the Colombian government to take a clear position in favor of the interests and needs of the people of Marmato and other Colombians. We call attention to the negative implications of the government’s turning its back on this community, a community that is fighting for the life of its roots, its way of life and its sustenance. We emphasize that this community, one that has been and will certainly continue to be peaceful, will defend to the end its right to determine its own destiny.
Marmato is the example of the destructive mining policy they are trying to push in this country, one that is clearly an affront to national sovereignty, and one that has allowed the consideration even of providing 40% of Colombia’s territory as a concession. This has established a savage marketplace for mega-mining projects that openly favors foreign companies and their middlemen over the miners and local merchants and workers. It threatens the property of thousands of Colombians, especially in the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. This is exactly why it is important to defend this territory and gain the victory for its people, because of the message it would send to public opinion in the country, to the Colombian government, to the multinational mining companies and to the international community. The message is that this phase of voracious capitalism, the laxness and surrender of the governments will not get the best of the determination of the people to defend their present and to decide their future freely.
Signers: Caldas-CRIDEC Indigenous Regional Council, Cartama Regional Council, Ciic Committee to Defend Marmato, Managers of Tomorrow, Miners of Echandia, Miners of Cien Pesos, Miners of Chaburquia, Small Miners Association, Let’s Revive, Oscar Gutierrez, Lorenzo Muelas Hurtado Constitutional Assembly.
Colombian Action Network Against Big Multinational Mining
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