( Translated by Emma Strenski, Edited by John Laun)
Source : http://www.foei.org/es/prensa/archivo-por-tema/justicia-economica-resistencia-al-neoliberalismo-prensa/al-descubierto-demandan-colombia-por-16-500-millones-de-dolares-al-amparo-del-tlc-con-eeuu-por-crear-el-parque-nacional-yaigoji-apaporis
Press release from Friends of the Earth reveals that three mining companies intend to sue Colombia for an amount that could reach as much as $16.5 billion.
Bogota, Colombia – April 8, 2016
Through documents recently published by the Colombian government, it has been revealed that three mining companies intend to sue the country for an amount that could reach $16.5 billion. They demand, under the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States, that the government not create a naturally protected area and instead authorize mining activities in the Amazon region.
The companies, Tobie Mining and Energy (US), Cosigo Resources (Canada) and Consigo Resources Branch in Colombia argue that their gold mining project will suffer unfair delays and that the consultation process for the approval of the Yaigoji Apaporis National Park was fraudulent. For their part, the indigenous communities affected by the extractive venture denounced the irregularities incurred by the companies in their mining attempts. The area is tropical forest rich in biodiversity, one of the most important in the world. Due to the creation of the nature reserve, all mining activities there had to be suspended.
The three companies recently lost a case in the Colombian Constitutional Court related to a similar matter. According to the Settlement System of Investor-State Disputes (ISDS for it English acronym) the demand for arbitration will be settled by a secret commercial tribunal. If the tribunal decides that Colombia must pay, the amount claimed could be $16.5 billion, which would be more than the Colombian national budget for education.
At present there are 700 known cases of investor-state complaints worldwide. In 2016 alone there have been at least four cases against Colombia. On March 16, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (CIADI, an organization of the World Bank) registered Glencore Mining’s intention to sue Colombia over a conflict with the government about the disputed royalties for a coal mining project. The mining company Eco Oro also warned Colombia that it could present an international commercial complaint for the measures taken for protection of the Paramo of Santurban applied by the State against the advance of gold mining. The páramo is an essential source of water and more than 2 million people directly depend upon it.
The information about the nature or exact amounts of these claims is not available at the moment, due to the secrecy in which the processes move forward in the commercial tribunals.
Danilo Urrea. CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth (Colombia) affirmed that:
“The Free Trade Agreements undermine any possibility of a sustainable future. They are used to guarantee profits of businesses above the constitutional definitions in instances such as that when the Constitutional Court issues a sentence providing for the necessity and obligation of the State to protect ecosystems and territories essential for the country.” (Sentence T 035 of February 2016.)
“Mining companies have lost their cases in the Colombian courts, but now want to use secret trade tribunals to make us pay to protect nature and maintain the minimum possible sovereignty in the midst of the neoliberal model. It is a clear business strategy to attack the internal definitions with which human nature and non-human nature are protected above the transnational corporations’ accumulation apparatus.”
Sam Cossar-Gillbert of Friends of the Earth International said:
“The current international commercial system is out of control. Last month, the United States was sued for $15 billion for suspending the oil sands pipeline, and now Colombia faces a similar proceeding for creating a Natural Reserve. It is a crime that wealthy multinational companies can use trade agreements to intimidate and threaten the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.”
“The Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States was announced by the two governments at the time as the agreement with ‘the strongest environmental protections.’ However, actually it gives foreign companies special powers to attack the environment. People from Michigan to Bogota are tired of these failed trade policies. It is time for a change.”