Multinational gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti has sparked protests as it considers processing ore in a central Colombian town 50 miles west of the capital Bogota.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Doima, a small town in the Tolima department, on the day before Christmas to demonstrate against their municipality of Piedras being considered for an AngloGold Ashanti gold ore processing plant. Protesters were concerned that gold ore processing, which uses large amounts of water and requires chemicals, often including cyanide, would diminish and pollute local water supplies.
“We only have one source of water, the river,” said one protestor. “If they pollute the river and streams it will be the end of everything […]. And we are scared because this is a big company doing business all around the world.”
The Piedras municipality is an agricultural area dominated by large-scale rice production and is being considered for a processing plant for “La Colosa,” a gold mining project in Cajamarca, Tolima with the potential to become the biggest gold mine in South America.
Some residents of Doima also felt that the mining company has not been straightforward with them, saying they only discovered the reason for the company’s presence after they had been in the municipality several months. “[The company] sent the local authorities a letter around July but they only said they were going to be carrying out a survey of flora and fauna,” the Mayor of Piedras, Arquimedes Avila Rondon, told Colombia Reports.
AngloGold denied proceeding with its mining plans behind the locals’ back.
“We have no secrets and have had several public meetings to share with the communities and the authorities what we are doing. We will continue meeting with the people to provide further information as we advance on our work. We cannot provide information on aspects or decisions that require further analysis,” a spokesperson for the company told this website.
But townspeople claim it was they who pushed for meetings with AngloGold Ashanti after some citizens grew concerned at the company’s presence. Meanwhile AngloGold Ashanti say they are currently investigating two other sites for mine infrastructure but will not reveal their location until further research is completed.
The company has said that if the mine goes into production cyanide, a highly toxic chemical, will be used in the processing of the ore. But the company says it is signed up to the “Cyanide Code,” an industry standard for use of the chemical in mining which was developed in response to accidents and pollution involving cyanide.
The AngloGold Ashanti project has already sparked protests over the last two years in Cajamarca and Ibagué, also in the Tolima department. The La Colosa project is in an area both of agricultural production and what environmentalists say are sensitive ecosystems. The company successfully lobbied the Colombian government to allow them to carry out exploration works in an area of forest reserve.
La Colosa is AngloGold Ashanti’s biggest project in Colombia with a target opening date of 2018. The company has mining concessions across 20 departments of the country covering about 15,000 square kilometers.