Civil society organizations call on Canadian mining companies to respect the right to consent in Colombia
Nov 15, 2011
Canadian Ambassador in Colombia
Carrera #114-33, Piso 14 Bogotá
Sent by electronic mail
RE: Concerns arising from October 26, 2011 complaint from the Cañamomo Lomaprieta Indigenous Resguardo in Caldas, Colombia regarding free, prior and informed consent
Dear Ambassador Martin,
At a time of increased activity of Canadian companies in Colombia and following implementation of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement, we are writing to express our concerns arising from a complaint from the Cañamomo Lomaprieta Indigenous Resguardo in Caldas. The complaint refers to Canadian mining companies Antioquia Gold and Medoro Gold, now merged with Gran Colombia Gold, and their reported lack of respect for the community’s right to free, prior and informed consent prior to any mining activity taking place on their ancestral territories.
Traditional authorities of the Cañamomo Lomaprieta Indigenous Resguardo, located in the municipalities of Riocucio and Supía, department of Caldas, have reported that representatives of Medoro Resources, now merged with Gran Colombia Gold, arrived unannounced on their territory first in September and then on October 17th of this year with the apparent intention of collecting samples as part of exploration activities in the area. On both occasions, the indigenous authorities report that the Indigenous Guard informed the company employees of their responsibility to obtain permission from traditional authorities of the Resguardo before carrying out such activities, and that on both occasions company representatives acknowledged that they lacked said approval. The Indigenous Authorities also report that similar events took place involving Calgary-based Antioquia Gold in February of this year. It is important to note that both companies are listed on Canadian stock exchanges, and that, in the case of Gran Colombia Gold, the Canadian Pension Plan has an investment worth $6 million CDN in this company as of March 2011.
According to national and international law and jurisprudence, the Embera Chamí indigenous people who live in this Resguardo should not have to bear undue pressure on their territories from mining exploration activities taking place without their express approval. The right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples in Colombia is enshrined in article 330 of the country's Constitution, as well as in the International Labour Organization Convention 169 on the rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which Colombia has ratified, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Colombia supports. Furthe rmore, the jurisprudence of Colombia's Constitutional Court, such as judgment T-1045A of December 2010 and judgment T-129 of 2011, along with international jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, recognize that prior consultation leading to free, prior and informed consent of ethnic peoples should be sought even prior to the granting of mineral concessions on their ancestral territories.
In violation of these legal provisions, the Embera Chamí indigenous people of Cañamomo Lomaprieta report that Canadian companies have entered their territory, intimidating their members, at times accompanied by public and private security forces. The traditional authorities of the Resguardo have spoken out about the way in which the Colombian authorities have granted mineral concessions on their land without their prior consent, and ask that Canadian companies refrain from carrying out any mineral exploration activities until such consent is obtained. The same indigenous authorities also express concern that the open-pit gold mine proposed by Gran Colombia Gold in the nearby municipality of Marmato, adjacent to their territory, would have significant impacts on their survival as a people.
We are concerned that the Colombian state is currently not guaranteeing the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent and ask the Canadian Embassy in Bogotá to use its offices to take the appropriate steps to monitor and ensure that Canadian companies are nonetheless respecting this right, as enshrined in national and international law. This is an important step to mitigate further human rights violations that could take place in the context of the internal armed conflict. Particularly given the large stake of Canadian taxpayers, such as in the case of the Marmato project through the Canadian Pension Plan, it would also help demonstrate the will of the Canadian government to promote the human rights of peoples in Colombia.
Furthermore, we ask that the Canadian Embassy in Bogotá ensure that these concerns are responded to and reflected in the first annual report that Canada will issue in 2012 regarding human rights impacts associated with the implementation of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect on August 15, 2011.
A number of the signatories to this letter also expressed concerns in a 15 September letter to you regarding the murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo who was an outspoken opponent of Gran Colombia Gold’s open pit mining project in the municipality of Marmato, Caldas. We would appreciate your response on this issue, as well as on the contents of this current letter.
Thank you for your response and for attention to these matters.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
CDHAL (Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine)
Development & Peace
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie
Vice President of Colombia Angelino Garzón
Minister of the Interior and Justice German Vargas Lleras
People’s Ombudsmand Volmar Antonio Pérez
Colombian Ambassador in Canada Clemencia Forero-Ucros
General Counsel and Secretary for Gran Colombia Gold Peter Volk