The movement to stop mining in Ibague, Colombia has become a movement for peace and democracy. Citizens have already won the right to vote on the future of mining in their region, and now, on the 30th of October, the people of Ibague will go to the polls in an unprecedented vote that could ban mining in their region once and for all.
(The people of Ibague have been resisting what could be one of South America’s largest mines)
The city of Ibague and the surrounding area are threatened by what could be one of South America’s largest gold mines- Anglo Gold Ashanti’s La Colosa Project. This mine would produce 100 million tonnes of waste rock dumped in valleys, destroy precious ecosystems and is linked to harassment of communities and the assassination of campesino community leader César García.
Over 100 other mining titles have been granted in Ibague to date, with grave potential impacts for the environment. The total area of all of these titles put together is almost four times the size of Paris!
Concerned citizens of Ibague have been mobilising against mining for years, and earlier in 2016 120,000 people marched in Ibague in defence of land, water and life.
(The Municipality of Ibague is nestled in the Andes Mountains and made up of urban and rural areas.)
If the people choose to vote against mining on the 30th, Ibague will become one of the first cities EVER to ban mining. It will become a global beacon of hope for others affected by the mining industry and for Colombians at a difficult time in the country’s history, following the popular rejection of the Colombian Government’s peace deal with the guerilla group known as FARC.
To make this happen, grassroots activists in Ibague urgently need your support to help their fellow citizens make an informed decision on mining and exercise their democratic right to a free and fair vote.
There are just a few days left to help citizens of Ibague to defend their city from mining. Can you chip in?
(Mining companies often fail to inform communities about the real impacts of their operations, like acid mine drainage.)
Your support will help provide the people of Ibague with crucial information on the impacts of gold mining, enable concerned citizens to host information points on the day of the referendum and help grassroots activists mobilise people to get out and vote, providing transport for people from rural areas of Ibague.
With your help, Ibague can become an inspiration for cities, towns and villages around the globe that are defending their land, strengthening the growing global resistance to extractivism everywhere.
A message from the frontlines…
If you’re in any doubt about how much this referendum means for the people of Ibague, and Colombians generally, we invite you to read this letter from Yes to Life, No to Mining’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America, Mariana Gomez. She explains why the referendum in Ibague could help restore hope for peace from the grassroots in Colombia:
For the past month or so, numerous social movements in Colombia have been converging. People expressing their opinions, some times desperately, have filled the streets. Peace is something that speaks right to peoples’ morality, and it is a longing of any human heart.
Three days ago, Colombia voted against the peace treaty built between the FARC guerrilla and the Colombian government. Now we are 25 days ahead of the Popular Consultation to vote against large-scale mining to take place in Ibagué, Colombia, the first regional capital to take mining to public vote. All this makes me think of a phrase I have heard Vandana Shiva say: “We are in a historical moment for self-organization and local social movements”.
When the Colombian President announced the peace referendum, the date for the Popular Consultation in Ibagué had already been set for the 2nd of October. The President coincidentally chose the same date, and the popular consultation in Ibagué had to be postponed by law. It has now been re-programmed for the 30th of October, so we have a little less than a month to go.
In spite of the unexpected results of the Peace Referendum last Sunday, we are pretty optimistic about the Popular Consultation against mining, but we need more support.
Ibagué, the state capital of Tolima has a strong environmental movement and the successful popular consultation in the nearby town Piedras keeps our hopes up. Even though Piedras is a small town and has a much smaller electorate than Ibagué (4000 voters), we are confident with the job being done by grass-root movements in advocacy and awareness raising campaigns. We are aware as well, that it is a big challenge, for 130,000 votes are required from an electorate of 400,000 if large-scale mining is to be banned from the Municipality of Ibagué. Whilst we have the energy, we do not have the materials we need to reach people and encourage them to vote. For this we need international support!
Times are overwhelming for the country. We need stories of victory and hope. Lets hope Ibagué can resound this voice and spread the message of YES TO LIFE to all the inhabitants of the country. We are definitely in a pivotal moment that we must face as an opportunity to change paradigms. I try to tell myself constantly that we must turn the results from Sunday into an opportunity for the country to transcend the conflict that has eclipsed our society for more than 50 years. The people of Ibague can show us the way. They can take one step to help us all.
Help the energetic social movements in Ibague spread hope in Colombia and to all communities resisting mining. Support the efforts of Mariana and here fellow activists today!