LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF COLOMBIA
DEFENDING NATIONAL SMALL-SCALE MINING
WILL SAVE THE COUNTRY FROM LARGE-SCALE FOREIGN MINING
Miners’ Strike and Day of Protest in Defense of this nation’s artesanal, small-
and medium-scale mining
July 17, 2013
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator)
We are compatriots, small and medium-scale artesanal miners. Just like you, we are trying to make a living, in a country whose leaders sharply limit the opportunities for its inhabitants to improve their living conditions. After two decades of neoliberalism, a large part of our national agriculture and industry are in ruins. Proof of that is the unfortunate situation that the coffee growers, the dairymen, potato farmers, auto parts suppliers, textile makers, leather producers, shoe manufacturers and many others have experienced. They have been forced to yield to imports from nations that do support their local producers.
This has forced hundreds of thousands of Colombians to take refuge in mining, adopting it as their way of life, so as not to swell the ranks of the miserable in the cities, or those of the illegal armed groups. They are practicing an activity that many of their compatriots have taken up from time immemorial, without being designated as illegal. More than two million citizens extract coal, sand, rock, gold, and other minerals as our only opportunity to earn daily sustenance.
We are aware of the effect of our daily activity on society and on the environment. We are convinced that we need to change and improve the practice of mining because after all, our children and our families also live on the land that provides our sustenance and we would like to be able to continue for a long time. But the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, rather than helping and supporting us, has declared war on us, as if we were undesirables that have to be eliminated.
There are those who think that the government is pursuing us in order to protect the country’s biodiversity. The truth is that we are an obstacle that keeps the Mining-Energy Locomotive from functioning in high gear and that it will only succeed if we are dispossessed of our land, so that it can be turned over to the big mining transnationals. These companies, which have caused enormous disasters, are the only beneficiaries of the policy of destroying small-scale miners. In César Province, where once they planted cotton, there is now only a coal pit, dug by gringos and Europeans. La Guajira Province is the biggest producer of energy for foreign powers, while it is the poorest province in the country. Now they actually want to divert its only river, the Ranchería. In Córdoba, people are dying of sicknesses produced by major exploitation of nickel by a company that has systematically swindled the government. In Meta Province, petroleum workers for a Canadian multinational live worse than they would in concentration camps.
This happens at an incalculable and irreversible social and environmental cost and—to cap the climax—for every $100 that the government receives from the big mining companies in taxes, it no longer receives $200 that we give them in tax credits, as was pointed out recently in a study by the Comptroller General. Those credits are given to those companies so that they will generate employment, but the truth is that small and medium-scale mining generate more jobs and they receive not one of the privileges enjoyed by the big corporations that make money from our Natural Resources that are Not Renewable. Is this the country we want for our children, a country devastated by foreign greed.
Colombians, if we permit the Santos government to demolish our national miners, we will be permitting it to destroy the way of life of millions of Colombians who will be left without any alternative, but who are also a force to defend the country from big foreign mining. Just like you, we are worried about the future of Colombia. The government accuses us of being illegal because we don’t have the mining titles that they themselves have systematically refused to furnish to us. Facing so many attacks from the government that ought to defend us, the only recourse left to us is to protest peacefully to demand: 1. That they respect our production and our honest work and that they not put us in the same class as the illegal armed groups. 2.That the government admit that our activity is different from big mining and 3. That there be a real process for formalization that will end this conflict for everyone once and for all.
Therefore, we invite our compatriots to support us and to join us peacefully and democratically in the miners’ strike and day of protest for the defense of this nation’s artesanal small and medium-scale mining that we will carry out on July 17, 2013.
Confederación Nacional de Mineros de Colombia, Conalminercol.
Federación Santandereana de Pequeños y Medianos Mineros, Fesamin.
Federación de Pequeños y Medianos Mineros de Caldas y Risaralda, Fepemicar.
Asociación de Mineros del Bajo Cauca, Asomineros.
Asociación de Mineros del Altiplano Cundiboyacense, Asominalcumb.
Asoarenas, Piedecuesta, Santander.
Asociación de Mineros de Arcillas de Santander, Amas.
Asociación Campesina de Mineros de Palogordo, Girón y Piedecuesta.
Asanpav, San Gil.
Asociación de pequeños mineros de la Provincia Soto Norte, Asoprominorte.
Asociación de Pescadores y Trabajadores Mineros del Rio Sogamoso, Apetras
Asociación de Gravilleros de Sabana de Torres, Asograstorres.
Asociación de Mineros del Nordeste de Antioquia.
Asociación de Mineros de Guamocó y el Bagre, Asomiguana.
Asociación de Mineros de Tarazá, Asomit.
Asociación de Dragueros del Bajo Cauca.
Asociación de Mineros de la Cuenca del Sinifana, Asomicsi.
Asociación de Mineros Tradicionales de Marmato, Asomitrama.
Federación Minera del Chocó, Fedemichocó.
Asociación de Mineros del Chocó, Asomichocó.
Asociación de Mineros de Novita, Asominov.
Asociación de Dragueros del Chocó, Asodracho.
Asociación de Barequeros del Atrato.
Asociación de Mineros del Medio Sanjuán.
Asociación de Mineros de Tado, Asomitado.
Asociación de Productores Comunitarios del Atrato.
Cooperativa de Mineros de San Juan, Coomisanjuan.
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)