Colombian First Nations protest illegal mining on their traditional territories

Members of four Colombian First Nations occupied a mine called La Cantera La Peña de Horeb, in the northern Cesar department, to protest against its illegal operations.

The protesters’ allegations were confirmed by the department’s environmental authority, whose representatives said they were going to press charges against Explominerales de la Costa S.A. for unrightfully extracting sand and gravel in the area.

Although satisfied with the decision, the Indigenous groups also demanded urgent action against other 160 mines whose activities -they say- are contaminating rivers, ravines and the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, the country’s largest swampy marsh.

Jaime Arias, from the Kankuama Nation, told El Heraldo that 36 rivers are born at the Sierra Nevada glaciers and it saddens him to see them getting polluted. “Those rivers are in charge of regulating the Caribbean region’s temperature and water availability. We would like for both the government and the civil society to help us protect our sacred territory, which is now threatened.”

Arias and his counterparts from the Arhuaca, Kogui, and Wiwa Nations asked authorities to enforce a ban on illegal mining and follow a consultation process with Indigenous communities before granting new mining permits.

In response to their demands, Colombia’s General Attorney and a few judges from the Constitutional Court will host a public audience this Tuesday. Beyond the situation with mining, they want local authorities and First Nations leaders to discuss issues around human rights violations and land claims in the region.