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This statement from the Colombian Network Against Large Scale Transnational Mining, RECLAME, follows Greystar Resources's decision to withdraw its request for an environmental permit for its Angostura project in the Colombian páramos of Santurbán. The decision comes on the heels of mobilizations in the city of Bucaramanga in which tens of thousands of people participated. RECLAME calls on Colombian authorities to ensure that these and other páramo ecosystems within the country are protected from mining activities, according to Colombian law. An estimated 108,972 hectares of páramo - a fragile high altitude wetland ecosystem - currently fall within concessioned areas.

Colombian Network Against Large Scale Transnational Mining, RECLAME
March 25th 2011

In response to the declarations from the Ministry of Mines and Energy on March 17th 2011 announcing that Canadian mining company Greystar Resources Ltd. desist from exploring gold in the páramos of Santurbán, and the response of the company released the following day indicating that there was a misunderstanding, the Colombian Network Against Large Scale Transnational Mining (RECLAME) makes the following remarks:

We acknowledge the particularly dedicated and brave efforts of the Committee in Defense of the Páramo of Santurbán, of the students, the unionists, the environmentalists, the artists, the defenders of life, the associations, and all of the citizens acting for the protection of the páramo of Santurbán and the water of the department of Santander, and against the Angostura mining project belonging to Greystar.

We emphasize that it is the mobilization and unity of the Santander people that obliged the Canadian company to modify its plans for an open-pit mine in the mountains of Santander, which supply water to more than 2.5 million Colombians.

We recognize that the campaign in defense of the páramo of Santurbán has become an example of citizenship, education and awareness building for Colombians about the importance of páramos and high Andean forests. These efforts have been so important as to oblige the national government, through the Ministry of Mines and Energy, to publicly recognize that mining in páramo and subpáramo is definitively prohibited, and to demand that this reality be respected.

We reject Greystar’s dishonesty when after announcing its decision to retract the Angostura project, misinformed and unsettled the citizenry by publicly questioning the authority of the Minister of Mines and Energy Carlos Rodado Noriega.

We consider that Greystar has acted in a devious way, not only to generate confusion about its real aspirations in the páramo, but more than anything to present a project to the people of Santander and of the country that is technically deficient, and to seek an environmental license that ignores Colombian legislation, as the Ministry of Mines and Energy has acknowledged.

We reject the polarization and violence that Greystar’s attitude has generated in the region and warn about the implications that such an attitude could have. In this regard, we condemn the aggression that was meted out against two journalists of CM& on the part of workers of Greystar in the municipality of California, Santander, [1] and ask the authorities to make a statement regarding this serious act that threatens the freedom of the press and the human rights of Colombian citizens.

We demand a decision from the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development regarding the environmental license of Greystar in the páramo of Santurbán and a clear decision that would impede that this, and other companies, from continuing to carry out exploration and extraction activities in this or any other area of páramo and subpáramo in the country.

We acknowledge the Ministry of Mines and Energy for having recognized that mining in páramos and subpáramos is illegal and for having committed to not grant any further mining concessions in these ecosystems. [2] It is disconcerting, however, that 109,000 hectares of páramo in Colombia still fall within 391 mining concessions.

As a result, RECLAME demands that the national government and the appropriate authorities not only abide by the law that protect the páramos, and which have done so for sometime, to stop granting mining titles in these areas against the law, but that they also begin to take the necessary steps to reverse decisions that continue to threaten these areas today.

In the case of the Angostura project, a review should also take place of the impacts that exploration activities have caused to date, in order to ensure remediation of the affected areas.

The network calls upon the Colombian people to continue mobilizing in defense of the mountains and against transnational mining.

The páramos and high Andean forests are ours, they guarantee our water supply, our biodiversity, and our food. We will not let them be destroyed.

Colombian Network Against Large Scale Transnational Mining, RECLAME
http://www.reclamecolombia.or reclamecolombia

[1] CM&, “Agresión a equipo periodístico de CM& que realizaba informe sobre Santurban,” March 18th 2011: A team of journalists reports having been assaulted when they were working on a special program about the páramo of Santurbán in the municipality of California, focal point of Greystar’s operations. Ana Mercedes Ariza, a journalist, received medical treatment following the attack.

[2] Caracol Radio, March 18th 2011, interview with Minister of Energy and Mines Carlos Rodado Noriega in which he says, “From here on in, mineral rights will not be granted in páramos, wetlands designated as important under the Ramsar convention, national parks or other protected natural areas.”