(Translated by CSN Volunteer Translator Steve Cagan)
ANLA has asked for adjustment in the plan’s projected area of influence
in the abiotic, biotic and socio-economic environments.
December 8, 2017
By Carolina Rincón Ramírez (El Tiempo)
The National Environmental License Authority (Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales, ANLA) has demanded more information from the Arab company Minesa to complement the Environmental Impact Study that they presented in the process of applying for an environmental license for the Soto Norte project, in which they intend to mine gold for 23 years in the jurisdictions of Suratá and California, municipalities close to the Santurbán paramo, in Santander. [Editor’s note: 1) The owner of Minesa is from the United Arab Emirates, specifically. 2) Paramos are endangered alpine tundra ecosystems. Colombia has more paramos than any country on earth.]
According to what El Tiempo was able to learn, last December 5th and 6th ANLA gave the multinational company 83 requirements that they are obligated to fulfill, which must be resolved within a month. However, this timeframe can be extended for 30 days with a request in advance from the company.
The request for additional information from Minesa, which came about after two technical visits of the agency to the area, make reference, among other topics to: the means of access to the project; the percentage of deposits for tailings; how much explosives will be used; complementary information about the presences of cadmium, selenium, molybdenum, and radioactive material; a detailed definition of the final disposition of waste water; air quality; noise modeling; and adjustments in the area of influence in the abiotic, biotic, and socio-economic environments.
This last point could lead to Bucaramanga’s being included in the project’s area of influence, just as the mayor of that capital city, Rodolfo Hernández, and the environmental groups, have requested. They reject the mining plan, insisting that it will put the water supply that area of the paramo produces, and which supplies the inhabitants of that city, at risk.
And the topic of water was precisely one of those to which ANLA gave great emphasis. Faced with this, they asked Minesa to adjust their water management program, with the goal of including measures that would guarantee the availability of water resources for all the uses, the users, and the ecosystem services that might be affected by the development of the project.
The requirements related to surface and underground water resources are intended to determine if the Santurbán paramo might be affected in some way, and if there might be effects on the availability of water for human consumption for current and future inhabitants.
The agency emphasized that their analyses are done in a regional way, that is to say not only in the area of the project, but rather in the entire paramo complex, and therefore it needs the company to take account of the watersheds in a complete, and not a fragmented, way, as well as complete censuses of fauna and flora, and the totality of the communities affected by the interventions of the project, including a characterization of the population that will be resettled and the population that will continue to reside in the area.
In terms of the economic valuation, which is the tool for estimating the monetary values of the environment, ANLA believes that the company must adjust the flow of costs and benefits.
In addition to the additional information, in the process of licensing a project that envisions 23 years of extractive operation, it is necessary to carry out at least a public environmental hearing, which has been sought by the mayors of the area influenced by the project, Suratá and California.
Meanwhile, in Bucaramanga, where they insist that they will be affected by the plan, they hope that an activity of this sort might be carried out.
Meanwhile, last November the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Luis Gilberto Murillo Urrutia, made clear that no decision about the licensing of this project will be made by ANLA until the process of drawing the new limits of the paramo of Santurbán, as ordered by the Constitutional Court, takes effect.
Carolina Rincón Ramírez
Correspondent of El Tiempo
Editor’s note: The bold font is based on the original article.