Organizations alert World Bank to risks of Colombian mining investment
Delegation explains to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a branch of the World Bank Group, illegalities and possible harms to people and the environment from Eco Oro Mineral’s Angostura mine in Santurbán, Colombia.
Washington/Ottawa/Bogota/Bucaramanga. From September 11-13th, representatives from the Committee for the Defense of the Water and Páramo of Santurbán, a local coalition in the area affected by the mine, met with officials of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to alert them to illegalities and socio-environmental risks associated with the Angostura mine project in Colombia, in which the IFC invested four years ago.
The Committee was accompanied by representatives from the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), and MiningWatch Canada.
IFC bought shares in Eco Oro Minerals, which hopes to open a large scale gold mine in the Santurbán páramo, a source of fresh water for millions of Colombians, habitat for endemic and threatened species, and important for climate change mitigation through the capture of atmospheric carbon.
The delegation emphasized that mining puts all of this at risk and as such, according to Colombian legislation and international norms, is prohibited in páramo ecosystems. They added that cumulative effects should have been considered because the Angostura project has stimulated interest in a possible mining district in the area, in which extensive areas have been concessioned to various mining companies and that has also been affected by the armed conflict.
In 2012, the Committee, with support from its allies, presented a complaint to IFC’s accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO). As a result, the CAO opened an investigation to determine whether the IFC adequately evaluated the social and environmental risks associated with this project before making its investment. The results of the investigation will likely be published before the end of the year.
"We hope that, as a result of the CAO report, IFC will withdraw its investment from this mining project, since there is no way that Angostura can live up to the World Bank policies," remarked Erwing Rodríguez, a member of the Committee.
"This is a very important case in Santander and the whole country. Through thousands-strong marches and many other actions in defense of water, páramos and territory, we have made it clear that we do not support large-scale mining in the Santurbán páramo," stated Miguel Ramos, another Committee member.
A lawyer for AIDA, Carlos Lozano Acosta, continued: "This is a key case because it will set a precedent in the region with regard to the protection of páramos, which are vital for the provision of water and in the fight against climate change."
"The World Bank is taking on an unnecessary and unprofitable risk. The value of the shares in Eco Oro that the IFC purchased has considerably dropped. This project is not good for the páramo, for Colombians, or for the IFC. We don’t understand why the IFC insists on maintaining this investment," concluded Kris Genovese of SOMO.