Supporting Cajamarca’s fight to defend its territory from mining

Cajamarca in Colombia

Arracacha cops. | Credit: Felipe Rodríguez-Moreno / Flickr.

Cajamarca is a town in the mountains of central Colombia, often referred to as "Colombia’s pantry” due to its great agricultural production. In addition to fertile lands, fed by rivers and 161 fresh water springs, the municipality features panoramic views of gorges and cloud forests. The main economic activities of its population—agriculture and tourism—depend on the health of these natural environments.
 
The fertile lands of Cajamarca are also rich in minerals, for which AngloGold Ashanti has descended on the region. The international mining conglomerate seeks to develop one of the world’s largest open-pit gold mines in the area.  Open-pit mining is particularly damaging to the environment as extracting the metal involves razing green areas and generating huge amounts of potentially toxic waste.
 
The project, appropriately named La Colosa, would be the second largest of its kind in Latin America and the first open-pit gold mine in Colombia. The toxic elements that an operation of that magnitude would leave behind could contaminate the soil, air, rivers and groundwater. 
 
In addition, storms, earthquakes, or simple design errors could easily cause the dams storing the toxic mining waste to rupture. The collapse of similar tailings dams in Peru and Brazil in recent years has caused catastrophic social and environmental consequences. 
 
On March 26, 2017, in a popular referendum, 98 percent of the voters of Cajamarca said “No” to mining in their territory, effectively rejecting the La Colosa project. AIDA is proud to have contributed to that initiative. But even with this promising citizen-led victory, much work remains. 

What is AIDA Doing? 

  • Soliciting the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the protection of wetlands, to urge the government to protect the Otún Lagoon, at risk due to its proximity to the La Colosa project.
  • Helping communities of the area build capacity to plan the adequate and sustainable use of their own territory.
  • Providing legal advice to communities so they can defend their water and territory from harmful projects like La Colosa.
  • Supporting citizen-led campaigns and local communication efforts.