People of Bucaramanga united for water and life

Dadan Amaya, Bucaramanga, February 24, 2011

[Translated by Leo Torres, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]

A 200 meter crater in the mountains from where 1075 million tons of rock and about half a gram of gold per ton will be extracted, 230 tons of ANFO per day, 745 million tons of waste, a consumption of 1253 cubic meters of water per hour, equivalent to the consumption of a city of 300, 000 inhabitants, and 40 tons of cyanide will be used daily in the birthplace of half of the water supply of Bucaramanga, the moor of Santurbán. On the other side: a royalty of 3.2 percent and 1500 direct jobs that once the mine is built will be reduced to 554. Here is the project of “Angosturas” by the Canadian Greystar Resources, which has attracted the widest unity and resistance seen in a long time in the city of Bucaramanga.

The mega mining industry is the activity that much better illustrates the conditions of domination under which Colombia has found itself. The huge tax breaks not enjoyed by nationals, the irresponsibility and obsequiousness of governments, the persecution of small and medium producers which paves the way for multinational corporations, the brutal way of extracting wealth, direct and indirect purchase of opinion through bribery and disinformation, underdevelopment, the triumph of greed over common sense—in short, the prevalence of foreign interests at the expense of the welfare of the Nation. However, being the mega mining industry the condensed expression of neo—liberalism, the Angostura project is the cherry on top. A proposed open-pit mining in the moor of Santurbán that compromises the life of so fragile an ecosystem and the quality and supply of water of the metropolitan area of Bucaramanga, the fifth largest city, in exchange for very little or even nothing, as the reform of the royalties snatch even that 3.2 percent.

To cope with such a disproportionate ambition, the Committee for the Defense of the moor of Santurbán was formed. This committee gathered a large amount of NGOs; unions; students; environmentalists; professionals; the Society of Public Improvements; Santander Society of Engineers; Fenalco; religious communities; traders; the Departmental Assembly represented by its president and many other expressions of different sectors of Bucaramanga’s society in a campaign of resistance to the project, which could be synthesized in the phrase "save water and life."

This group, after putting all the differences aside, has developed an extensive outreach of the implications of large scale of mining and the project itself, by collecting signatures, distributing information, marches, rallies, cultural events, legal initiatives, and a number of activities looking to offset by the activism of hundreds of volunteers, the huge economic disadvantage they have with regard to the company.

In addition to the broad majority rejection by the citizenry, through the mentioned campaign and the extensive knowledge of the subject by its members, the committee has managed to score between its achievements, the performance of two outstanding days of mobilization that promise to be just a prelude of the third one convened by Fenalco for February 25, with the support of numerous organizations.

The committee and the general opposition to the project – which grows exponentially – correctly understood that the mobilization of citizens is the right tactic to follow against the attitude of a government that is married to the mega mining industry and to that extent, exercising pressure on the government by the people of Bucaramanga could avoid the granting of the environmental license to the company. Continuing in this way the committee and the public shall achieve a great precedent by defeating Greystar and stop the progress of a locomotive that promises to overwhelm the water, life, and the possibility of real development and everything into its way.

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