A small Colombian town just rejected a $35 billion gold mine project, putting people and the Earth before profit. Around 98 percent of the residents in Cajamarca said no to the mine due to concerns over the environment and water pollution – and Colombian Mining Minister German Arce doesn’t seem too happy with the results.
South African company AngloGold Ashanti aimed to build the gold mine, called La Colosa, in Central Colombia, and it could have been the biggest gold mine in South America. The national government was in favor of La Colosa, saying mining is vital as they recover from war with Marxist rebels. But residents of Cajamarca, where the mine would be located, overwhelmingly rejected the project in a recent referendum. According to the BBC, 19,000 people live in the town, and only 76 locals voted in favor of the gold mine while 6,100 voted against.
Local 21-year-old student Camila Méndez told Mongabay before the results were in, “I voted no for the future generations. I have two nephews of seven and three years old. Even though they do not live in Cajamarca, I know that I want them to enjoy the little I’ve been able to enjoy so far, as it concerns the countryside. If we win…we’d show the complete world that Cajamarca is able to defeat a huge multinational enterprise, a mining monster as AngloGold Ashanti.”
But Arce said campaigners misled voters. He said AngloGold Ashanti had been issued an exploration license already, and that license would remain valid. Local authorities may control the land, but Arce said the national government controls any underground riches. AngloGold Ashanti still needs an environmental license, and if that is awarded Arce said it would be up to the courts or the country’s Congress to decide if local or national authorities would win the fight.
Locals fear the mine would damage the mountain environment of the area, or pollute water sources.