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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Findings of the People's Court on Gold Multinationals in Colombia

Santa Rosa
Southern Bolivar Region
August 16, 2006

Public Hearings on Mining
Findings of the People¹s Court on Multinationals and Paramilitary Forces in Colombia

The representatives of diverse organizations, (many based in the southern Bolivar Region and others from elsewhere in Colombia or in the world), invited groups representing, or working in solidarity with farm workers, miners, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and students to convene in Santa Rosa on August 15-16, 2006 to hold hearings related to a lawsuit against the Kedhada Mining Company, a subsidiary of the Anglogold Ashanti multinational corporation.  The Company¹s natural resource extraction projects have seriously compromised miners¹ rights in our Region, particularly through its use of ad hoc armed forces to control its workers.

Our findings after these two days of deliberations include the following:

1. When miners in this region have applied to the Bolivar Region¹s Mining Office for permits, or to add on to their existing mining titles, they¹ve found out that the Kedhada Company already established contractual rights to nearly all of the untitled known mines in the Region.  This Company has now requested similar priority rights in 336 Colombian municipalities.  These same operational strategies were reported in Quinchía and in Risaralda, among many other sites.

2. These strategies have succeeded because of changes made just a few years ago in Colombia¹s Mining Code to benefit multinational mining interests.  These changes have harmed our miners who, for decades, have risked or loss their lives to maintain their sole source of income.  The changes have also compromised the quality of life of our communities, our regions, our indigenous peoples and our Afro-Colombian population.

3. Under the current Mining Code, impoverished miners are unable to meet the requirements for obtaining legal mining titles.   This leaves many miners and their families no alternative but to continue working in the mines and selling the gold on the black market.  Many have thus faced extreme poverty due to the vagaries of this secondary market.  It was also noted that these new provisions in the Mining Code have inured to the benefit of municipalities and regions that are not even mining gold, given that some of the resulting profit is used to finance paramilitary activities in various non-mining regions in Colombia.

4. Although it has only been proven that the Kedhada Company is now surveying mining sites under the jurisdictions of Buena Seña, San Martín de Loba and La Cruz, all indications are that over the next decade this multinational will have established the requisite infrastructure to survey the southern Bolivar region at will.  The Company will by then have gained title to those mines which seem most profitable, without any regard for the presence of farm workers, many of whom have worked on the lands for decades.  Our early research indicates that this Company ignores concerns related to proper decontamination.  This region¹s great gold wealth could soon help fund further violence, displacements and plundering instead of benefiting our people.

5. Our miner and farm worker community participants have further testified that many government bureaucrats and workers from international agencies have obtained valuable information from them, then gone on to work for the Kedhada Company.  They¹ve exploited our good will, betraying  our communities¹ trust in their motives.  We have also heard testimony which indicates that the region¹s police and armed forces are increasingly prone to defend this multinational corporation¹s interests.  Now, more than ever, they work to convince our fellow farm workers that this Company represents progress for the region, and that they should therefore comply with the Company¹s demands.  We also learned that many government workers have negotiated substantial kickbacks from this Company in exchange for their direct support or for their deliberate complacency.

6. Before the Kedhada Company was incorporated as a legal entity, its parent company, Anglogold Ashanti, tried to obtain titles, through shady dealings, to an extensive 7000 hectares (over 17,000 acres) in the southern Bolivar region, specifically to lands under the jurisdiction of San Pedro Frío, El Paraíso, Mina Gallo and Montecristo.  It has been proven that when their negotiations were faltering, the region was invaded by paramilitary forces who committed many crimes against miners, creating a veritable reign of terror through forced displacements, Œdisappearances,¹ closing off certain areas to food imports, routine threats and even assassinations.  This proves how badly a situation can deteriorate when economically powerful entities seek to exploit natural resources in or near communities that won¹t simply cede their rights.

7. Recently, since we began to define and expose this Company¹s modus operandi in our region, there has been a growing paramilitary presence, even after these Œarmed actors¹ were to have been disbanded.  We¹ve also noted an increased use of private security forces to defend Kedhada¹s interests.  Some of our communities must now live with the intimidation of having government soldiers announce the imminent arrival of paramilitary forces.  We¹re told, for example that the paramilitary "Aguilas Negras," or "Black Eagles," will "not look favorably upon" those who oppose the Company¹s presence.  This makes it all the more worrisome that a special army battalion has recently been assigned to the mining zone of San Pedro Frío.

8. Given the testimony that has been presented at this public hearing, the People¹s Court participants declare our commitment to defend our fundamental rights, territories and communities against these violations.  We call for a unified, widespread resistance movement among the farm workers, miners, indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians affected by the Kedhada Company¹s plans and activities in our area.        

FEDEAGROMISBOL (Federation of Agriculture workers and Miners in Southern Bolivar)



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