Colombia: Marmato municipal council prohibits open-pit mining and resettlement of historic centre
(Marmato, Department of Caldas, Colombia; December 22, 2011) The Marmato Defence Committee and the Regional Indigenous Council of Caldas (CRIDEC) notify the Colombian people, the international community, human rights organizations, organized social sectors mobilizing in defence of the environment and of small scale mining, and public opinion in general:
That following six years of uncertainty since the arrival in Marmato and appropriation of mines by Canadian multinational companies, with the help of the national government, that have destroyed mills, created unemployment, carryied out drilling and humiliated the population, yesterday, December 21st 2011, the Honourable Municipal Council of Marmato in the department of Caldas, approved the revision and adjustment of the municipal Land Use Plan, which includes the following dispositions:
1. Maintain the name El Llano (La Betulia) (Translator's note: this is the current name of the community to which the historic centre of Marmato was to be resettled to make way for an open pit mine) and erase the name “New Marmato” from all articles.
2. Keep the municipal centre in the Historic Area, including the Mayoral and Council's offices, the church, the educational institute, the police headquarters and all other institutions central to the social and institutional dynamic of this centre.
3. Prohibit open pit mining in the municipality of Marmato, Caldas, in accord with Article 33 of Law 136 and Article 313 of the National Constitution. Provide support for artisanal and traditional mining.
4. Declare El Llano (La Betulia) as a populated urban centre and its expansion areas as urban (El Tejar, Guayabito), and ensure that it has the necessary infrastructure to serve the needs of the current and future population.
5. Maintain the perimeter of the urban centre and of the Historic Area in accord with limits established in the Land Use Plan of 2004. The Municipal Council will regulate the nature of extraction taking place within this area in accord with the law.
6. Ensure strict monitoring of any drilling for minerals taking place within the municipality.
7. Carry out the necessary steps before respective authorities in order to remove mining titles from areas located within urban areas, populated areas, areas designated for rural development, sources of water, and protected areas within the municipality.
8. Prioritize public intervention in improving the environment within the municipality, in which not more than 15% will be used.
9. Maintain the rural character of San Juan de Marmato, also recognizing that the majority of the indigenous community within the municipality lives in this area. As a result, San Juan de Marmato will be categorized as a rural parish (corregimiento) (Article 311 of Decree 1333 of 1986) and as indigenous territory (Decree 1386 of 1994). Two populated rural areas will be established: San Juan and Agrovillas Jiménez.
10. The Central Plaza and surrounding area will be have its own special management regime such that its presence remains a testimony to the history of ancestral, colonial and republican mining in Marmato, and at the same time as the risk level of the area is taken into consideration. As a result, the demolition or resettlement of cultural heritage within the sector will be prohibited and its maintenance ensured such that it is conserved. Ensure the maintenance over time of the residents, public institutions, and private establishments within the sector of Atrio and other sectors within the Historic Area, which are in an area in which risk levels can be mitigated. As a result, classify as a high priority those works necessary to mitigate risk in these areas, as recommended by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Caldas (CORPOCALDAS).
11. Carry out the necessary steps with the Governor's Office of Caldas, the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO to have Marmato declared a World Heritage Site.
12. Undertake a review of the water system and protect sources of water for the needs of the population.
As such, the Municipal Council responds to the voice of the people in an exemplary fashion, following six years of struggle by the Marmato Defence Committee, small scale miners, the indigenous council and the regional indigenous organization, teachers, as well as multiple solidarity groups from within Colombia, Canada and other countries.
This decision by municipal councillors of Marmato also closes the door to the efforts of Canadian companies to resettle the population and to destroy a town with 475 years of history in order to extract gold from the Marmato mountain using open pit mining in only 20 years.
Since 2007, this project has been rejected by more than 500 signatories from Marmato; as well, in May of 2011, by thousands of people from across the country who marched along the Panamerican Highway, followed by the mobilization of 400 small scale miners that paralyzed the local population in a strike at the end of November against the attempt of the company to close the mines.
On November 2nd 2011, 15 days before the council was to stop sitting, the Mayor's Office presented proposed reforms to the Land Use Plan that were prepared three years ago by the Ministry of Environment to the Municipal Council. The proposal declared the Historic Area of the municipality as an area of high risk, ordered the resettlement of the population, the demolition of the Central Plaza and of heritage buildings, the resettlement of the municipal centre to El Llano at the bottom of the mountain, to be renamed “New Marmato,” which is located less than a kilometre as the crow flies from the actual municipal centre, as a result of which its inhabitants would suffer the direct impacts of an open pit mining operation, if this were to come about.
Finally, the municipal councillors of Marmato have given Colombia and the world a lesson in dignity, for having demonstrated that the defence of life, culture and natural resources is not a matter of money, nor of official pressure, as one executive director of Gran Colombia Gold (formerly Medoro Resources) stated several months ago.
We demand that the Colombian authorities, the Canadian government and Gran Colombia Gold (formerly Medoro Resources) respect the sovereign decision of the people of Marmato. At the same time, we call upon all of the miners in Marmato to ensure the immediate application of the Mining Manual of Coexistence in order to ensure an improvement in the quality of life of the population and the respect of Mother Earth.
Marmato Defence Committee
Executive Committee, Regional Indigenous Council of Caldas (CRIDEC)
Marmato, Caldas, December 22nd 2011