Colombian Constitutional Court strengthens support for popular consultations on mining as referendum in Ibague, Colombia, put on hold

In a boost to struggles against destructive mining across Colombia, the Colombian Constitutional Court has declared that municipalities have a constitutional right to hold referendums on and ban mining. This news comes as the much awaited referendum on mining in Ibague, Colombia, is put on hold due to legal action taken by the Mining and Oil Association of Tolima. Read more from YLNM members, Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida.



Published by the Comite Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida. 15/10/2016

After a year long process, 15 days before holding the Popular Consultation in Ibagué (community referendum over mining activities), it was put on hold due to a precautionary measure granted by the State Council (Conseil d´Etat). This action was a consequence of a tutela (constitutional writ of protection), filed by a representative of the Mining and Oil Association of Tolima, in which he argued that the Popular Consultation would threaten their rights to work and requested a precautionary measure, filed in September 2016.


Despite a previous decision of the State Council stating that popular consultations do not threaten workers rights, a different Chamber granted the precautionary measure in this opportunity. Precautionary measures are granted to prevent potential harms to fundamental rights while the Chamber takes a full in depth decision. With this decision, the Popular Consultation scheduled to take place in Ibagué on October 30th, will not take place until the State Council hands down a definitive response to the tutela action.  

But there is hope. This same week, the Constitutional Court handed down the first decision (T 445-2015) exclusively about Popular Consultations over mining. It declares that Popular Consultations over mining issues are legal and that municipalities have the right to ban mining activities in their territory, given their constitutional mandate to regulate the use of the land and guarantee environmental protection.

This decision responds to a tutela action filed by a citizen form Pijao, a municipality in a nearby State that is also threatened by mining activities by the same company than in Ibagué. Pijao had attempted to hold a Popular Consultation over this topic, but it the Administrative Tribunal from this State blocked the process arguing: 1. That municipalities could not hold popular consultations that could eventually ban mining activities, and 2. That the question submitted to popular vote was bias and thus unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court revised this decision as a request of the citizen´s tutela, and recognizes the right of Municipalities to hold Popular Consultations and restrict mining, but found the question to be bias and thus unconstitutional.

The decision taken by the Constitutional Court has an impact over the process in Ibagué because both Popular Consultation questions submitted are very similar. The Constitutional court told Pijao that they could hold a Popular Consultation as long as they modified the question. To avoid a similar decision from court about Ibagué, the best decision would be to follow the courts suggestion, modify the question as well. For this reason, the Mayor of Ibagué and the social movements pushing the defense of water and territory forward have announced their intention to continue with the process, which will imply crafting a new question.

Your support is more important than ever, and the social movements will continue with their pedagogic strategy to raise awareness about the risks of mining and the importance of participating in mechanisms of direct democracy. Our crowdfunding campaign will close, and the money raised until now will be placed in a collective fund for the use of the social movements to invest in their pedagogic strategy.

Thanks for your support until now, and we will be sharing with you how this process evolves.


Comite Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida
Tolima, Colombia

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