Colombia suspends gold mining in protected natural reserve

Date of publication: 
5 September 2015

Colombia’s Constitutional Court has suspended gold mining activity across more than 247 million acres of protected land in the south of the country.

Following the Court’s decision, The Ministry of Mines and Energy will suspend all gold mining operations in the Yaigoje Apaporis National Park, that spans between the southeastern states of Amazonas and Vaupes.

According to reports, the Court took action after a Canadian company, Cosigo Frontier Mining, allegedly tried to convince local indigenous communities to lift mining restrictions that had been implemented when the land was designated as a National Park in 2009.

The Court has concluded that the 2009 declaration is in fact legitimate, thus the protected area will remain protected and any activity that involves the extraction of natural resources by a private company will not be permitted.

“The existence of the Natural Park as a means of conservation, in which activities aimed at sustaining the community are developed, permits the survival of sacred sites and the environment,” said the Court.

The ruling has put an end to a six-year dispute between the indigenous communities of Amazonas and Vaupes, that began soon after Cosigo Frontier Mining arrived in the area.

Cosigo is currently under investigation after various indigenous testimonies revealed that the company had approached the tribes in an attempt to influence the clearing of the protected area to continue their mining operations, according to reports.

El Tiempo newspaper reported that an indigenous group formed a petition to lift the ban and demolish the area, but it was denied by the Court due to the apparent presence of the mining company.

Since 1977, it has been illegal to mine in Colombia’s protected reserves, however the implementation of the law has not always been consistent.

Only 17% of the total amount of gold mined in Colombia comes from formally authorized mining zones.

In July, Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos declared a war on the illicit trade that is reportedly worth $2.5 billion a year.


Court Halts Mining in ‘Colombian Avatar’ National Park

6 September 2015

A five-year court case has ended in victory for the Indigenous communities of Yaigoje Apaporis National Park.

Indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon this week triumphed in a five-year legal battle against Canadian miners when the Colombian Constitutional Court ordered the immediate suspension of all mining activities in the Yaigoje Apaporis National Park.

The half-decade court proceedings against Cosigo Resources, which was exploiting the abundant natural resources deep in the rainforest around River Apaporis, provoked controversy within ancestral communities, some of whom wanted to work with the company, and across Colombia.

The media dubbed the one million-hectare Amazonian virgin woodland, home to 19 Indigenous communities including the Macuna, Tanimuka, Letuama, Cabiyari, Barazano, Yujup Maku and Yauna people, “The Colombian Avatar” after the Hollywood blockbuster set in a beautiful forest.

The case gained such a high profile that the judges involved traveled to the rainforest themselves to listen to the Indigenous people.

Wade Davis, The author of best seller “The River,” a book about the Colombian national park, was one of the multi-nationals’ strongest opponents.

“A mine in the Apaporis is like an oil well in the Sistine Chapel,” the expert in indigenous cultures, told Colombian magazine Semana.

“I am from Canada. I know that Canadian mines are all over the world. But including us, us Canadians, we live fighting them because they want to put a mine in every part of the world. The debate is not whether or not there should be mines, but how many, where, with what environmental impact and above all, for who. There are places where you could put a mine and there places that it’s never worth it to do it,” he added.

The ruling coincided with another victory for Indigenous communities over multi-nationals: the Canadian Supreme Court, in a unanimous 7-0 ruling, found on Friday that victims of the contamination caused by the Chevron oil company in Ecuador can seek compensation from Chevron in Canada.