Los acuerdos municipales también se valen para decir NO!

Jericó and Támesis: Colombian municipalities find new ways to stay mining-free

Basado en artículos y comunicados producidos por Fernando Jaramillo, Francisco Arias y otros miembros de la Mesa Técnica del Suroeste de Antioquia 

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En Colombia, no solo las consultas populares está en auge como procesos mediante los cuales los ciudadanos pueden defender su territorio de proyectos extractivos. Otros municipios interesados en esta defensa han optado por promover la firma de acuerdos municipales para impedir que estas actividades entren en su territorio. A pesar del inminente interés de los ciudadanos en Colombia de decirle al gobierno y las corporaciones que esa no es la manera en que ellos proyectan su bienestar, estos acuerdos entran también en un limbo jurídico, que igual que las consultas populares, acobarda a los gobiernos y al sector minero, y empodera a la gente. Esta es la historia de Támesis y Jericó, dos municipios del suroeste Antioqueño de Colombia, que en el plazo de un mes lograron concretar dichos acuerdos.

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Estos acuerdos deben ser firmados por los miembros del concejo municipal. La mañana del domingo 28 de mayo los once concejales del municipio de Támesis acordaron firmar dicho acuerdo, y la mañana del 7 de junio el municipio de Jericó aprobó el proyecto de acuerdo, con 6 votos a favor de diez posibles, y tan solo 4 en contra. Se firmó para comprometer a estos municipios a excluir la minería de metales en su territorio, y de defender las fuentes de agua y la vocación cafetera, ganadera y agropecuaria en la zona. Ambos ponen en jaque los intereses de la multinacional AngloGold Ashanti, quien tiene presencia en la zona desde el 2008, y cuenta con 7,595 hectáreas de títulos mineros para exploración. Estos concejos municipales han acogido las preocupaciones de las organizaciones sociales, los agricultores, productores, campesinos y la comunidad en general de proteger la naturaleza para garantizar su bienestar.

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La región del suroeste antiqueño es productora de café, proveyendo el 60% de la producción del grano del departamento, y el 16% de la cosecha nacional. En Támesis existen 1.886 hectáreas sembradas en café (2.154 fincas en 35 veredas) y 1.517 productores viven de este cultivo, de los cuales el 98% son pequeños productores con menos de cinco hectáreas. Jericó cuenta con 1.533 hectáreas sembradas (1.040 fincas en 27 veredas), que son trabajadas por 890 cafeteros y de ellos, el 94,3% son pequeños productores. Esta región además produce cacao, plátano, panela y ganado de carne y de leche, lo cual brinda el sustento de los habitantes, razón por la cual para ellos prevalece la producción agrícola que la actividad minera. Así lo manifestó el alcalde de Támesis al afirmar que “queremos seguir siendo felices en nuestro municipio y seguramente la felicidad no está en la plata ni en el oro… lo sacan y se lo llevan. Queremos ser un municipio pujante, pero siguiendo la ruta que nos dejaron nuestros antepasados”.

Hasta Dios parece estar de acuerdo con los ciudadanos, pues el obispo del pueblo ha proclamado que su lema se ha vuelto: “minería si, pero no así ni aquí!”. Y explica: “no nos podemos quedar sin arena, sin cemento y sin hierro… La minería siempre ha existido, pero no así, a cielo abierto o en grandes socavones y no aquí, en una tierra que presenta altos riesgos geológicos, con grandes vertientes de aguas subterráneas. Esto sería jugar demasiado pesado con la naturaleza”. Además, desde un conocimiento profundo del territorio que habita, agrega que “estas tierras son muy verticales y son una esponja de agua que debemos proteger”.

El abogado Rodrigo Negrete, quien había ratificado en la sesión plenaria las facultades que tienen los Concejos para decidir sobre sus territorios y para defender su patrimonio ecológico y cultural, ratificó la validez de la decisión y dijo que “está claro el marco jurisprudencial, que les permite a los municipios prohibir este tipo de actividades que son impactantes, deteriorantes y que causan tantos conflictos medioambientales… Es un logro que convierte a Jericó, junto a Támesis, en unos referentes para todo el país”.

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Habitantes de Jericó afirman que se prohibió el proceso que pretendía abrir el vientre de sus montañas para extraer 617 millones de toneladas de rocas, triturarlas, molerlas, mezclarlas con químicos disueltos en millones de metros cúbicos de agua, separarlas y exportar 65 millones de toneladas de cobre, algo de oro y plata, molibdeno. Esto, dejando las toneladas restantes convertidas en lodos de metales pesados tóxicos, sulfuros y escombreras que terminan en los llamados diques de cola que se han calculado en 25 millones de metros cúbicos y cuya permanencia en el territorio, igual que los túneles y la afectación al sistema de aguas subterráneas serán permanentes. Lo anterior amenaza la forma de vida de los habitantes de este municipio que se ha distinguido en toda Colombia por su belleza, verdor, cultura, bienestar, paz y amabilidad de sus gentes.

Colombian citizens are employing a range of new democratic tactics to defend their territories, livelihoods and life from extractivism, writes Mariana Gomez, YLNM Coordinator for Latin America. This is a moment of great innovation.

Article compiled thanks to articles and press notes by Fernando Jaramillo, Francisco Arias and other members of the Mesa Técnica del Suroeste de Antioquia 

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Across Colombia democratic popular consultations are booming as a tactic for citizens to defend their territories from extractive projects. But these consultations are not the only emerging tool for territorial defense.

Other citizens are promoting the signing of municipality agreements to stop unwanted extractive activities. Such agreements fit into the same hotly debated space as popular consultations, intimidating the government and mining sector whilst empowering the people. Organised from the bottom-up these agreements manifest the interests of Colombian citizens, clearly stating to the government and corporations that extractive ‘development’ is not the way they envision their wellbeing.

This is the story of Jericó and Támesis, two municipalities in south-western Antioquia, Colombia. In less than a month, both were able to nail down such municipal agreements rejecting extractive projects.

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The power to sign municipal agreements lies with city council members in each municipality. On the morning of the 28th of May, the eleven council members of the municipality of Támesis agreed to sign an agreement banning certain extractive projects, and on the morning of the 7th of June the municipality of Jericó approved a similar agreement, with 6 votes out of ten in favour, and only 4 against.

The agreements signed commit the municipalities to exclude metal mining from their territories in order to defend water sources and the coffee growing vocation. Both of these agreements weaken AngloGold Ashanti, a company with major interests in the region.

The South African gold miner has been present in south-western Antioquia since 2008 and currently holds 7,595 hectares of mining titles for exploration. These agreements are a further blow to the company, whose flagship La Colosa gold mining project was rejected in a popular consultation by citizens of Cajamarca, Tolima, in late March 2017.

These municipality agreements are evidence that social organizations, farmers, producers, peasants and the communities of south-western Antioquia in general, have successfully made the case for protecting nature to guarantee wellbeing. They have shown the council and the authorities that healthy land and sustainable livelihoods are the alternative to extractivism.

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The region of south-western Antioquia is coffee country. It contributes 60% of the department of Antioquia’s coffee, equivalent to 16% of the national harvest. In Támesis there are 1,886 hectares of land devoted to coffee crops (154 farms) and 1,517 producers and their families base their livelihood in this crop. 98% of these producers are small land holders who grow this crop in less than five hectares. Jericó has 1,533 hectares it devotes to coffee growing (1,040 farms), worked by 890 farmers, of which 94.3% are small peasant producers.

The region also produces cacao, plantain, raw sugar paste and raises cattle for milk and meat. These are the products nn which the inhabitants of the region base their livelihoods and the reason why for them agriculture must prevail over mining activities. This is a fact well understood by municipality authorities. The mayor of Támesis recently said “we want to continue to be happy in our municipality, and we guess happiness is not in the money, silver or gold… they take it out and leave with it. We want to be a vigorous municipality, but following the path left for us by our ancestors”.

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Even God seems to agree with the inhabitants of this region, for the bishop of the town has stated “mining, yes, but not like this and not here!”. He explains: “We cannot leave without sand, concrete or iron… mining has always existed, but not like this, open pit and at a large scale, and not in places like this one, in a territory with high geological risks, with large underground water slopes. This would mean playing too hard on nature”. He adds from a deep knowledge about the place he inhabits, “these lands are very steep and are a water sponge we must protect”.

Lawyer Rodrigo Negrete, who confirms that a city council has the right to decide over future developments in its territory, has affirmed that councils have a mandate to protect the ecological and cultural heritage of their municipality.

“The legal framework that allows municipalities to prohibit these type of impact activities that deteriorate land and cause environmental conflicts is made clear… it is an achievement that makes Jericó and Támesis a reference for the whole country”, says Negrete.

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By employing the tactic of calling for municipal agreements, inhabitants of Jericó say they have stopped a project that would to open the guts of their mountains to extract 617 million tons of rock, crush and grind them and mix them with chemicals diluted in millions of cubic meters of water, separate them and then export around 65 million tons of copper, gold, silver and molybdenum.

This would leave toxic wastes behind; ‘tailings’ of mud mixed with heavy metals, sulphurs and other wastes stored behind a huge tailings dam that would have a permanent effect on the territory.

Citizens believe this threatens their way of life. By moving to secure democratic protections at the municipal level they are making sure their lands remain distinguished in Colombia for their beauty, green landscapes, culture, wellbeing, peace and the kindness of their people.

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