Colombian Constitutional Court Orders Mining Company to Develop Environmental Protection Plan in Boyacá
The Colombian Constitutional Court has ordered mining company Minas Paz de Oro to develop polices that will prevent environment damage in the areas surrounding in its planned open-pit mine in the Boyacá town of Tasco.
Amid reports of waters in the area, the court, which was ruling on a claim brought by a local woman, decided that the company’s plan to drill and blast in an area called El Banco must not harm a local spring that nearby residents rely on. Minas Paz de Oro now has six months to implement a plan to protect the water supply and other natural resources.
Photo: A statue of a coffee farmer in the town of Pisba, Boyacá, near where locals have been protesting irresponsible mining that threatens the local water supply. (Credit: Roapolice)
The woman’s claim — an acción de tutela — alleged that the operations would violate her fundamental rights to life and health. Without a mitigation plan, solid waste from the the planned exploration, according to the claim, would elevate the sediment layers of nearby rivers, dams, and lakes and thereby impair the current way of life for those in the area while creating long-term damage to the community.
Colombian Constitutional Court Ruling
In accordance with national law, the Colombian Constitutional Court decreed that all inhabitants of Colombian territory are entitled to a healthy environment, something that a company cannot take away.
“It is an obligation for all individuals, especially for those who perform activities that in one way or another can cause environmental impacts, to comply with the duty to protect and conserve the ecosystem, taking the necessary precautions to avoid the occurrence of injury to the environment,” said the Colombian Constitutional Court in its ruling.
The court also ruled that a new home be provided to the plaintiff in the complaint. The family’s current residence was found to have cracks and deemed uninhabitable. The ruling gave authorities in Tasco two months to “take appropriate measures to protect the right to housing, ensuring the allocation of the property.”
The Water Rights Fight in Boyacá
Many locals have been opposed to further energy exploration in the area, particularly by multinational companies. Some have been protesting against irresponsible coal exploration for more than a year, according to a report by Caracol Radio.
Community leader Sixto Amaya told the radio station that, while he is not against mining altogether, residents in the areas around Pisba National Park have been burned by unsustainable operations in the past and want to ensure that their already-strained water sources are not further drained or damaged.
“About 25 years ago there was an operation in this area by the multinational that — they left a while ago and 13 returned to operate — and there we realized that we lost between 28 and 32 water sources in the region, in the province of Valderrama,” he said in June, per Caracol.
He pledged that the protest would continue — as long as it had to — until the government ensured that any mine operations present would not exploit the natural resources. “We do not want to see our generations dying of thirst,” Amaya told Caracol.