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Protecting the Santurban Páramo from mining's damages

In the Andean region, high-altitude forests and wetlands called páramos capture water from fog and supply it to lowlands. In Colombia, nearly two million people rely on the Santurbán páramo for their freshwater supply.

Healthy páramos also capture large amounts of carbon, mitigating climate change, and provide refuge for hundreds of threatened species, including the iconic spectacled bear.

The land in and around the Santurbán páramo contains gold and other minerals. A Canadian corporation, Eco Oro minerals, wants to build a gold mine that would leak large amounts of cyanide and arsenic into the water coming from the páramo.

AIDA’s advocacy helped to convince the Colombian government to:

  • Deny an environmental license for the Angostura mine in May 2011.
  • Protect, in 2013, 76 percent of the Santurbán páramo from industrial activities—a much larger percentage than originally proposed

Together with our partners, AIDA advocated for the World Bank's divestment from the Angostura mining project, which we achieved in December 2016. 

We also supported litigation that led Colombia’s highest court to reaffirm in February 2016 that mining in páramos is prohibited.

However, 24 percent of the Santurbán remains unprotected because it was not officially designated a páramo during the government's delimitation process, which was invalidated by a court system in November 2017 due to failure to consult with affected communities. 

The government must now realize a new delimitation process in consultation with residents of the area. Meanwhile, the threats to Santurbán continue, with Eco Oro still angling to build its mine and another mining project seeking establishment nearby.    

What AIDA is doing: 

  • Monitoring the development plans of Eco Oro, as well as other corporations interested in mining projects that put Santurbán at risk, in order to be prepared to protect the páramo's water supply.
  • Supporting the Committee for the Defense of Water and the Páramo of Santurbán and the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective in legal measures to protect the citizens' rights of participation and access to information in relation to the delimitation of the páramo. 
  • Following up on the international lawsuit initiated by Eco Oro against the government of Colombia because of the delimitation of Santurbán and the judicial ruling that confirmed the prohibition of mining in the nation's páramos. 
Photo: Alberto Peña Kay

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