Home » Colombian Court Confirms Mining Ban in Cajamarca Municipality

Colombian Court Confirms Mining Ban in Cajamarca Municipality

Court Ruling Upholds 2017 Referendum Against AngloGold Ashanti Project

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

In the Colombian department of Tolima, the Tenth Administrative Court of Ibagué has maintained the mining ban in the municipality of Cajamarca. This ruling essentially upholds the outcomes of a 2017 referendum in which the local populace rejected important mining proposals, particularly the large-scale La Colosa gold project proposed by AngloGold Ashanti.

In reaction to a lawsuit filed by lawyer Wilson Alexei Vallejo, who sought to have the results of the 2017 consultation overturned, the court made its ruling. Residents strongly opposed the development of the La Colosa project—which was discovered in 2006 and is thought to possess resources worth 12 million ounces of gold—during this vote. At first, it was anticipated that mine construction would begin in 2014 or 2016, with production starting soon after.

The 2017 referendum was heavily impacted by worries about the environment and public welfare. According to studies, the mine’s growth might have a negative effect on the surrounding ecosystem, endangering important river basins and reducing the amount of water available for community and agricultural usage. Following the referendum results, the project was placed on indefinite hold with legal status of “force majeure” due to the strong public opinion against it caused by these possible risks.

With the issuance of Agreement No. 003 of 2017, the Cajamarca Municipal Council confirmed the public’s decision in accordance with the wishes of its people. This agreement, which reflected a strong local mandate for environmental protection and sustainable development principles, formally barred any mining exploration and exploitation inside the city boundaries.

In his challenge to this ban, Vallejo contended that the legitimacy of the 2017 agreement would be impacted by modifications to Colombia’s constitutional doctrine concerning the parameters of popular referendums. He specifically mentioned Colombia’s Constitutional Court decisions SU-095 of 2018 and C-053 of 2019, arguing that they might have an effect on the municipal ban going forward. The court concluded that these decisions were not retroactive and did not render the already-passed citizen-led initiative void.

The decision to maintain the mining ban strengthens the authority of local government in environmental problems and upholds the idea of supporting citizen-led decisions. Environmentalists and local activists have praised this result as a win for community rights and the protection of the environment.

In a media release, the Judicial Coalition for the Defense of Cajamarca stated that the decision not only upholds the citizen mandate but also acts as a vital reminder to national authorities regarding the significance of putting public consultation results into practice. The Coalition anticipates that this ruling will force a reevaluation of national policy pertaining to environmental evaluations and mining permits and the necessary modifications thereto.

In Colombia’s ongoing discussions about mining techniques, environmental protection, and local vs national authority in resource management, this case represents a historic turning point. In the midst of major environmental and socioeconomic concerns, the court’s endorsement of the Cajamarca municipality’s decision reflects an increasing trend towards prioritising sustainable and community-focused development plans.

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