The World Bank wants its gold mining project in Cajamarc, Colombia badly, but the people of this small town just voted against the mammoth South African-sourced project which would have utterly changed their lives.
Locals had been calling the project “Auntie Anglo-Gold,” which ironically isn’t just a stab at the ethnicity of the folks who were meant to profit most from the gold mining outfit, but is the actual name of the gold-mining company who has already ripped other small towns to shreds with its mining practices. AngloGold Ashanti is a company listed on the London Stock Exchange.
AngloGold occupied Cajamarc for nearly ten years, simply in anticipation of moving forward on their billion-dollar project, but have been surreptitiously denied with a single vote among 22,000 locals.
The national government had also been promoting the project as necessary to overcome a long history of battle with Marxist rebels. Thousands of illegal mining operations had been funding the acts of terrorists and drug smugglers for decades. Most of the gold mined in Cajamarc, and other South and Central American countries is purchased by U.S. companies.
What many don’t know is that the simple, farming life is threatened by a gold-mine of such magnitude as AngloGold had in mind. In a report titled, LaColosa: A Death Foretold, the many negative outcomes of gold mining were outlined prior to the town’s vote. Here are some of the alarming findings they described:
- Foreign investors are almost always given preference for these mining operations over local communities.
- The foreign company often saturates the media with well-funded advertising to try to win over locals and sway politicians in their favor to get permits that allow the project to happen.
- The projects often divine local communities, purposely, and then create a dependency on the company’s activities.
- The mining company’s practices are always damaging to the environment on a grand scale, making it almost impossible for the town to recover once the mining project has been completed.
- Valuable, irreplaceable ecosystems as large as 100 hectares are usually destroyed in a single gold mining operation.
- A minimum of 100 million tons of waste rock is usually created, and then deposited in valleys, but they are usually full of mining chemicals.
- There is no place to put the toxic residue created by a gold mine, so it is usually put back into the environment.
- The water and electricity required for a project of any magnitude usually far exceeds the domestic consumption of any town.
- People who oppose a mining operation are considered a risk, often chastised, harassed, financially or socially ruined, and sometimes even murdered.
- “Exclusions” to Forest Reserve preservation rights have been granted for mining operations, and only after companies were given permission to tear down protected land are the residents informed.
- More than half of the members of political bodies have been found to have direct financial ties to mining companies like AngloGold.
- Despite promises of a better life, the residents usually have to face a higher cost of living, increased prostitution and violence, and horrid environmental and working conditions when a mining project gets underway.
The people of Cajamarca, Colombia say they would rather continue to cultivate their beans, bananas and arracachas, the carrot-like vegetables they regard as a gold of their own. In a binding, legal referendum, they opted to ban all mining, fearing it will contaminate the water, destroy the mountains and hurt their community. We celebrate your choice, Cajamarca. May your lush forests remain unchanged by the greedy hands of corporate commerce and illegal drug trade.