Skip to content Skip to navigation

Supporting Cajamarca’s fight to defend its territory from mining

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 freshwater 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 AIDA is 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.

The Latest

Mining, Public Participation | 25 July 2018

The Colombian town that’s taking on coal mining

At AIDA, we believe in a clean energy future, and our work will continue to support the move towards a coal-free Latin more

The small town of Cajamarca, Colombia

Fracking, Indigenous Rights, Large Dams, Mining, Oceans | 5 January 2018

10 advances for Latin America’s environment in 2017

Although 2017 was a challenging year for environmental defense globally, there have been many advances in the region that are worth celebrating. We’ve seen victories after years of struggle, more

| 28 April 2017

Victory in Colombia: Citizens Vote to Ban Mining in their Territory

On March 26, 2017, 98% of voters in Cajamarca, Colombia decisively rejected mining in their territory. The results of the referendum (or “popular consultation”) are binding under Colombian law. more