Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie

Pacific Rubiales: once again where it shouldn’t be…

22 Septiembre 2015

Pacific Rubiales Energy, the most powerful Canadian Company in Colombia, is now acting under the name Alange Energy Corp and it intends to break ground on the COR-33 project in Colombia’s páramo de Sumapaz.  It is important to mention that Pacific Rubiales is receiving support from the Canadian government.  In 2014 alone, the company was granted close to 50 million dollars (source: Exportation et Développement Canada).
 
The páramo is a unique ecosystem found in high altitude ranges of the Andes, in the limit between forest and eternal snows.  They are known for their important role in the country’s water reserves because of the high water retention level in their soils.  The páramos are responsible for 75% of Colombia’s water reserves and they are home to an interesting diversity of fauna and flora, who, for the most part, live exclusively in these unique ecosystems.  It is the case for the frailejones, a plant that grows a centimeter every year and can measure up to 6 meters.  We can find this ecosystem in Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Costa Rica, and finally Colombia, who hosts up to 60% of the world’s páramos1.

The weakness of environmental norms and their application, in addition to the inconsistency between respecting these norms and granting environmental permits, allows many supposedly protected areas to be conceded to multinational companies for exploitation and exploration projects.

Mining and oil exploitation in or near a páramo often aggravates existing socio-environmental conflicts.  Pacific Rubiales, or Alange, is not the first corporation to consider settling near a páramo; GreyStar, now Eco Oro, has been developing the Angostura project in the páramo of Santurban, who provides water to more than 2,2 million Colombians.  The initial project consisted in open-pit mining, but was changed to an underground mining project after strong mobilizations of the Committee for the protection of the Santurban páramo’s water, an alliance of close to 40 groups living downstream of the project.  This conflict has given place to a national debate on the páramos and their delimitations, the subpáramo zone and the Andean forest.

The National Development Plan of 2015-2018, adopted by the Santos government, introduces changes to pre-existing laws, leaving the door open for mining and oil exploitation projects in the páramos.  The pressure is strong: 448 mining titles were assigned in 32 of the 36 Colombian páramos, for a total of 118 thousand hectares, 11 thousand of them allotted to 4 oil projects.

The COR-33 project planned the construction of four platforms, each of them possessing three wells, in a total of 18,000 hectares.  Alange itself recognizes the socio-environmental consequences of the project. The change in the use of the lands, the rise in their prices, as well as the decrease of the agricultural yield and deforestation of adjacent areas are only a few of the consequences of exploitation projects in the páramos.  These consequences also have great impact on the communities, on their folkloric and cultural traditions, the area’s economic activities and public health.  It also causes the displacement of fauna, altering its diversity, as well as resulting in pressure for water resources, erosion and change in soil stability.

The hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation contract was signed in March 2011.  The communities were informed of the project at the end of 2013 and were committed to prevent the arrival of machinery for seismic activities.  The examination for environmental licencing began in September 2014 and the residents of the area multiplied the requests for public hearing.  On this year’s 4th of July, the members of five municipalities reunited to organize a regional coordination against the project.
« No multinational will pass before the people of Colombia » Alange VS Sumapaz


Notes:
1. Mining Watch Canada, « Urgent Action: Protect Vital Wetlands in Colombia from Canadian Mining Project », 21 janvier 2011. http://www.miningwatch.ca/get-involved/urgent-action-protect-vital-wetla...

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PASC

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