Delegation from Colombian community that stopped world’s biggest gold mine & redefined local democracy visit UK

20 March 2018 - 4:30pm
Press release

A year ago this rural community used direct democracy to stop what would have been the world’s largest gold mine. Their example has inspired 50 Colombian communities to challenge corporate exploitation through popular consultations and revolutionised the Colombian presidential debate. 25-30 March they visit London to share their vision for a just, sustainable future.

Cajamarca’s victory, which followed a decade of local campaigning and grabbed global headlines, has become a beacon of hope amidst a fragile peace process fraught with tensions and undermined by powerful interests. The people of Cajamarca and their allies recently put the case for mining-free development to the Colombian public in an exhibition at Bogota’s museum of modern art. Now they’re coming to make their case in London, the heart of the global mining industry.

If you would like to arrange an interview with one of our visitors quoted below or have any questions, please get in touch. Professional photography is also available on request.

Mariana Gomez Soto says: “The social movement behind the popular consultations boom in Colombia has shown its strength, not only by allowing multiple communities to participate in the decisions that will affect their future, but by elevating the debate to a presidential level. Cajamarca has become a strong reference point for transition alternatives, unfolding from the decision to say no to extractives, which is proof of the possibility of livelihoods based on wellbeing.”

Mariana is the Latin American Coordinator of the Yes to Life, No to Mining Network, has organised ‘popular consultations’ to prevent mining conflict in Colombia, in her home region, Piedras, and Cajamarca, Tolima.

Ricardo de la Pava says: “Members of the community, many of whom are peasant farmers, are uniting with unlikely partners like national restaurant chain Crepes & Waffles, to develop economic alternatives rooted in the ‘true treasures’ of their lands- agriculture, clean water and natural beauty.”

Ricardo is an ethno-botanical expert and Sustainability Coordinator at Crepes & Waffles, who supports peasant food growers to trail-blaze alternatives to extractivism rooted in agro-ecological practices.

Seb Munoz, Senior International Programmes Officer (Latin America) for War on Want, says: “Despite this surge of democratic, constitutional action, the Colombian Government continues to promote the extractive industries as a ‘locomotive’ of national development, which only serves to enforce authoritarian, corporate, market-led policies under the guise of peace and prosperity. Grassroots movements like the one in Cajamarca demonstrate that rural communities understand that real peace in the country will only be attained if social, environmental, racial and gender violence is.”

Event details (RSVP to contacts below):

  • 19.00-22.00 26 March: Water, Land, Life: Celebrating the true treasures of Cajamarca

Balabam Bar and Restaurant, 58-60 High Rd, London N15 6JU

  • 10.00-12.00 27 March: Roundtable on food, peace and extractivism

Room S211, Paul Webley Wing of SOAS University of, London WC1H 0XG

Press Contacts

War on Want: Marienna Pope-Weidemann 020 7324 5060 / mweidemann@waronwant.org

The Gaia Foundation: Hannibal Rhoades hannibal@gaianet.org

Notes to Editors

This event is organised by The Gaia Foundation, Comite Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, London Mining Network, Yes to Life, No to Mining, War on Want and ABColombia, with support from Sahara.

On the 26 March 2017, the people of Cajamarca in Tolima, Colombia, voted with a 98% majority to ban mining in its territory. The vote, organised through a binding ‘popular consultation’ mechanism, grabbed global headlines by effectively stopping the development of South African mining corporation AngloGold Ashanti’s ‘La Colosa’ project. AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) is the third-largest gold-mining multinational in the world, with a presence in various countries including South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Congo and Colombia.

Colombia is the second deadliest country for environmental defenders, a trend which has not subsided despite the on-going peace process. New research shows that the expansion of the mining, oil and gas, are primary drivers of this deadly violence. People’s lived experience of this violence has given rise to a new awareness that meaningful peace and development will not be achieved without social and environmental justice. 

Diverse stakeholders came together to share Cajamarca’s story through an art exhibition with the aim of reaching a broader national public and expressing the value of the decision taken and the possibilities it unfolds, based on the real potential that exists in this land and its people in order to strengthen their identity.

In the past year, 9 other municipalities have voted to ban mining, oil and gas development in their territories, each with a massive majority. 54 other municipalities are now planning their own popular consultations across the country.

The Colombian government has taken steps, including legal challenges and financial restrictions, to halt pending popular consultations and challenge the legal standing of those that have already taken place.

In November 2017, Camila Mendez from the community of Cajamarca visited London to challenge the Mines and Money Conference, a premier space for the global mining industry.

About War on Want

War on Want is a charitable membership organisation of people who are committed to social justice. War on Want’s vision is a world free from poverty and oppression, based on social justice, equality and human rights for all. War on Want works in partnership with grassroots social movements, trade unions and workers’ organisations to empower people to fight for their rights. It runs hard-hitting popular campaigns against the root causes of poverty and human rights violations.

About The Gaia Foundation

The Gaia Foundation has over 30 years’ experience accompanying partners, communities and movements in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe. Together we work to revive bio-cultural diversity, to regenerate healthy ecosystems and to strengthen community self-governance for climate change resilience. With a base in north London, we work all over the world and apply a holistic approach to addressing the root causes of our converging crises, triggered by the industrial growth society.

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