Opposition is growing to Vancouver-based Greystar’s proposed Angostura open-pit gold mine in Santurban, located in northeastern Colombia. The mine is a threat to the 7-million-year-old ‘paramo’ ecosystem, the source of the rivers and streams that supply water to 2.2 million people in Colombia.
It has been reported that, “To produce just a few nuggets of the shiny metal, tons of rock will be crushed by giant machines, piled in heaps and then leached with a cyanide solution that extracts the gold. But if mishandled, cyanide and other waste can pollute the air, soil and water.”
The local environmental authority for the provincial capital of Bucaramanga, some local congressmen, and the state’s ombudsmen oppose the mine saying it will impact the delicate ecosystem.
Colombia’s minister of mining Carlos Rodado has said, “I have a great concern with the location of the mining structures in this area, as they are at the height of 3,100 meters which goes against Article 3 of Act 1382 of 2010, which indicates that they may not be given permission to mine in this area. According to this article, mining cannot be done in highland areas.”
The country’s former environment minister Carlos Costa says, “This project is not feasible. Period. That has been clear since the beginning. While practicing (as environmental minister) I met five or six times with the project’s promoters, in some cases on my initiative, other cases on their initiative. This (project) is contrary to the law that modified the Mining Code, which was promoted by the government (Act 1382).”
Colombia’s government is currently studying whether to grant a license for the project, but officials have already decided that the company does not have to resubmit its environmental study to conform to its new regulations which prohibit mining in the paramos. And news reports note that, despite the law, “the government has already granted exploratory permits for projects covering 10 percent of Colombia’s paramos.”
Greystar dismisses any environmental concerns. The company’s president Steve Kesler says the mine poses no risk to the local water supply. One article notes, “Kesler says the Angostura mine will recycle its cyanide-laced water, build well-sealed leach pads and install early-warning systems that can minimize the risk of accidents. And he says the company is already making plans to restore the paramos ecosystem when the mine closes.”
The government is expected to decide on this project in April. Mining was to begin in late-2012, but is now expected to start in mid-2013.
To express your opposition to this project, please send a message to Colombia’s environment minister Beatriz Elena Uribe by going to http://reclamecolombia.org/index.php/component/content/article/168. The main demand of the petition is that the law that prohibits the mine be enforced, and that the human right to water be prioritized over this mine.
Further reading: http://www.miningweekly.com/article/greystar-project-spotlights-colombia-mining-hurdles-2011-02-22, http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/economy/14660-greystar-faces-questions-about-mining-licence.html, http://www.theworld.org/2011/03/andes-gold-mine-dilemma-for-colombia/, http://www.theworld.org/2011/03/andes-gold-mine-dilemma-for-colombia/.