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The Mazamorras Gold mining project, owned by Canadian multinational Gran Colombia Gold, and directed by ex-Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister María Consuelo Araujo, is located between the municipalities of Arboleda and San Lorenzo, in the Department of Nariño, Colombia.  The company is currently moving ahead with mining exploration activities, which has led to chaos and confrontation in and around local communities. Given this, we feel obliged to publicly denounce the following, which have occurred as a result of Gran Colombia Gold's presence in the region:

1. Intimidation and Threats Against Leaders and the Community in General

Since the arrival of the Mazamorras Gold project in the municipalities of San Lorenzo and Arboleda in January 2011, the social fabric, which was once strong, has deteriorated.

In this context, confrontations between community members and mine workers have taken place. Complaints include: harassment, direct threats and threats issued via cellphone, threats of lawsuits, and a heightened police presence in the region, which has resulted in beatings and arrests.

On April 11, 2011, in San Lorenzo, Nariño, a campesino leader received a death threat via telephone from an unknown man. On June 22, 201, she received the same threat via text message.

On July 26, 2011, in Colón-Génova, Nariño, a  campesino leader was harassed by a neighbour because of her solidarity work with the communities of San Lorenzo and Arboleda, which are opposed to mining. Due to a lack of security and protection by local authorities, the victim decided not to formally report the harassment.

On August 22, 2011, in Arboleda, Nariño, an unknown person called a campesino leader, threatening the life of her daughter if she participated in a peaceful march against the mining company. On September 6, 2011, she was informed that an engineer at the mine, who goes by the name 'Francisco', called her and other leaders, Walter Gaviria and Franco Rosero, 'anti-mining revolutionaries' [falsely drawing a link between their peaceful protest and the actions of guerrilla  groups like the FARC].

On October 9, 2011, in San Lorenzo, a campesino leader was hit in the right ear by Juan Ordóñez, a mine worker and supporter of the Mazamorras Gold project. At 2pm on the same day, the same worker harassed him verbally. On October 14, 2011, while waiting for a car to take him to the municipal government to report what had happened, the victim was pursued, photographed, and threatened by three mine workers and Nestor Cubides,  an ex-military captain who is now in charge of security at the mine.

On October 11, 2011, in Arboleda, a campesino leader received three phone calls threatening her life if she continued to work with the movement opposed to mining.

On October 22, 2011, in Arboleda, a campesino leader was accused of being the mastermind behind the October 10, 2011 burning of a mining exploration camp. On October 24, 2011, a mine worker followed him from Arboleda to the city of Pasto, where he was headed to report what had happened. From that point on, the campesino received death threats and threats of incarceration from mine workers.

On November 10, 2011, in Arboleda, a campesino leader was harassed, pursued and directly threatened by Néstor Cubides, head of security for the mining project. He also received threats via cellphone, and was pressured to present himself at the mining company office in Berruecos.

On November 21, 2011, in Arboleda, an ESMAD [riot police] squadron physically assaulted a campesino leader with a club during clashes between community members and police. A medical evaluation revealed that police had broken a bone in her left hand. During the skirmish the activist's shirt was ripped off in front of the community. Police then detained her, and accused her of being married to a guerrilla fighter. She was taken to a police station in the municipality of La Unión, where she was isolated and photographed by officials. The public prosecutor in La Unión later attempted to pressure her into accepting money from ESMAD in return for accepting a version of events in which she had fallen and injured herself, and police had come to her aid. She refused, and was eventually released.

At 5:30pm on November 23, 2011, in the Town of San Felipe, San Lorenzo, hooded men stopped the 12 year old daughter of a displaced community leader, covering her mouth and threatening to kill her is she didn't tell them where her father was. They eventually let her go on the condition that she not tell anyone what had happened.

2. The Burning of Three Panela-Processing Facilities

On August 19, 2011, unknown arsonists burned three panela-processing facilities on the farms of three separate campesino leaders. The fires destroyed all of their supplies and work tools, resulting in a loss of over 12 million Colombian pesos [$6,364 CAD] for each farmer. Due to a lack of security and protection by local authorities, only one of the campesinos reported the incident.

3. Campesino Leaders Threatened with Legal Action

On August 25, 2011, in San Lorenzo, mine worker Yovany Jurado slandered 8 campesino leaders, accusing them of authoring a paper in which they threatened his life. For lack of evidence, Yovany had to retract his complaint.

4. The Presence of Armed Groups

Between 12am and 1am on November 15, 2011, in the Town of Santa Martha, San Lorenzo, the community awoke to dogs barking and saw three armed men, hooded and dressed in black, walking through the town.

At 6am on November 15, 2011, in the Town of Santa Rita, the community noticed the presence of roughly 30 uniformed men, without hoods, in a field. It was unclear whether they were military troops, or members of an illegal armed group.

5. Water Contamination

- Drilling by the mining company resulted in a water leak, which caused water levels to drop in lake La Marucha. This lake supplies water to Santa Martha and other towns.

- Water in the Mazamorras stream turns bluish and becomes oily when the company is working on the exploration platforms. Animals have died from drinking water from the stream.

6.  Deterioration of the Social Fabric and Family Life

Since the arrival of Gran Colombia Gold, the company has attempted to deceive residents by paying them daily wages for odd jobs, giving out t-shirts, sports equipment and financing town festivities. The issue of day wages has caused divisions between parents and children, brothers and sisters, and between neighbours.  Some argue that the company is bringing work, but in reality, it resists hiring residents as permanent employees with social protections. This means, for example, that if a worker is injured on the job, he will not be compensated by the company.

With the support of the Colombian government, Gran Colombia Gold, has sparked a serious conflict in San Lorenzo and Arboleda. In the name of prosperity and progress, it has destroyed the tranquillity and peace that once existed in these communities.

We hold the the Government of Colombia and its security forces, and Canadian mining multinational Gran Colombia Gold, responsible for these systematic and repeated human rights violations, carried out against the people of Arboleda and San Lorenzo, in the Department of Nariño.

Issued by:
Comité de integración del Macizo colombiano - CIMA