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Miners operating in Colombia accused of forcing people off their land

Presentation of the Forjando Futuros foundation report. Photo from Forjando Futuros Facebook page.

Colombian Forjando Futuros foundation issued a report accusing 33 companies and 150 individuals, both foreign and Colombian, of forcing people living in rural communities off of their land.

According to the document, the forced displacement was ordered by the firms and individuals but executed by either the National Army or the guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The report was submitted to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace or JEP, a temporary judicial institution created as part of the country’s peace process to investigate and judge human rights violations performed by both the guerrilla and the national armed bodies.

In the dossier the JEP received, Forjando Futuros reveals that despite the fact that local land judges have issued 46 sentences in which the 33 companies have been deemed responsible for forcing victims of the armed conflict out of their territories, the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation has not investigated the cases.

Most of the forced displacement took place in Colombia’s Caribbean and the Pacific coasts, in the eastern planes and in the western Chocó department.

South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti (JSE:ANG) (NYSE:AU) and Canada’s Continental Gold (TSX: CNL), as themselves or as their subsidiaries, are amongst the foreign companies mentioned in the report. Back in 2014, both miners had to abandon their gold operations in the Chocó and Antioquia departments because they were taking place on the land of the Embera-Katío tribe.

Among the local companies mentioned are concrete manufacturer Argos, banking conglomerate Bancolombia, accused of loaning money to people buying dispossessed lands, and state-owned oil giant Ecopetrol, who obtained mineral extraction titles for terrains that belonged to war victims in the Meta department.

Local media report that victims and activists that joined Forjando Futuros in presenting the document are asking the national government to protect them in the process of reclaiming their lands. They say that when they try to do so after a favourable land judge sentence, they are threatened and many have even been killed.