The declaration of Santurbán as a Regional Natural Park
is a start toward complying with the prohibition on mining in páramos
AIDA supports the decision and urges the Ministry of Environment
to guarantee the protection of all páramo ecosystems.
Bogotá, Colombia. The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) welcomed the declaration of a portion of the Santurbán páramo in the Colombian departments of Santander and Norte de Santander as a Regional Natural Park. The measure, taken in January, reaffirms the prohibition on mining activities in Colombia’s páramo ecosystems, a move that helps improve the protection of these sensitive wetlands and critical carbon sinks.
AIDA expressed its support for the creation of the park in a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Alexander Von Humboldt Institute and the Autonomous Regional Corporation for the Defense of the Bucaramanga Plateau (CDMB) of Colombia, confirming that this act is congruent with the prohibition on mining in the region. It also reminded the government that this does not mean mining can be permitted in other parts of the páramo. The park declaration encompasses 11,700 of the 92,000 hectares of the páramo, and was proposed to the CDMB board of directors by Environment Minister Juan Gabriel Uribe based on a technical report issued by the Von Humboldt Institute.
“At AIDA, we have spent more than five years highlighting the national and international obligation of the state to protect páramos. Although creation of the park is a good first step, we insist that the government comply with the law and ensure mining will be prohibited in the entire ecosystem”, said Paulo Bacca, a lawyer at the NGO.
AIDA has worked to create and enforce the prohibition on mining in páramos, providing feedback on the Mining Code and related bills, and by following paradigmatic cases like Santurbán. It is a positive step that the Ministry of Environment, in accordance with constitutional and international commitments, has denied the environmental license requested by the Canadian company Greystar Resources Ltd. (now Eco Oro Minerals Corp.) to develop the Angostura gold mine in the heart of the páramo.
“This issue goes beyond the legal arena. It is a matter of national security and the quality of life for Colombians given that the páramos are essential for the supply of 70% of drinking water, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and even power generation”, said Astrid Puentes Riaño, co-executive director of AIDA.
To prevent the lack of territorial demarcation from being used as justification for allowing mining projects in páramo areas, AIDA urges the Ministry of Environment to immediately make use of the new mapping of páramos provided to it by the Von Humboldt Institute a few months ago. The use of that mapping can help prevent mining companies from hiding behind the lack of a definition and demarcation of critical ecosystems like páramos to advance mining projects in areas where such activities clearly should not be permitted, thus furthering ecosystem and water resource protection critical to Colombian citizens.