Revealing report by the POLO Senator Jorge E Robledo
[Translator's note: Democratic Polo, an opposition party in Colombia]
(Translated by Diana Méndez, a CSN Volunteer Translator, and edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)
AngloGold Ashanti and other multinational corporations were granted concessions of 43,000 square kilometers [16,603 sq miles] as large as the [departments] of Boyacá and Cundinamarca put together. Through tax exemptions, Drummond did not pay Colombia almost a billion pesos between 1995 and 2007. In Cerro Matoso due to bad investments, the nation may have lost 210 million pesos since 1998. The state's audit was awful. See intervention in today's (September 14) senate.
The multinationals of the mining industry impose conditions upon Colombia and the country gets the worst end of the deal, said Jorge Enrique Robledo today in the debate that took place in the Comisión Quinta (one of the Commissions of the Colombian Senate). The companies do not pay the taxes and royalties they should. They are not subject to proper audits and they do whatever they feel like in terms of labor law and industrial safety. In contrast, smaller and medium sized miners are subject to punitive policies which attempt to drive them from the market.
After reiterating that foreign investment is welcome, as long as it is beneficial and does not affect sovereignty, Robledo reported that "in this country the chain tends to break at its thinnest link when the interests of the country and foreign monopolies come into conflict." He emphasized that the conditions of labor in the mines are abhorrent, where the independent contractor system rules, with twelve hour shifts and salaries 70% below those who are on the regular payroll. Occupational diseases are widespread but the Administradoras de Riesgos Profesionales, ARP (Administration of Professional Risks) refuses to recognize them as such.
To illustrate the point, the Polo senator cited various critical cases. Among them, the case of the Frontino Gold Mines in Segovia and Remedios, Antioquia, Colombia Gold field in Marmato, Caldas, Greystar resources in the plateau of Santurbán, Santander, Anglogold Ashanti in Cajamarca, Tolima, Cosigo Frontier en Taraira (Vaupés), and the goldmine of the Suarez river, Cauca. He was in solidarity with the strike of the citizens of Segovia and Remedios for the firing of 1600 workers. He also warned of the great harm that the open air exploitations that are being planned in Marmato, La Colosa y Santurbán will cause. About the carbon mines in César, where Drummond and Glencore are located, Robledo citing Salud-Hernandez Mora, said "What we have here is a conspiracy. A plot to make rivers disappear, ruin life projects, devastate a region, and line a few pockets."
He referenced Cerro Matoso, where, according to Audit Age S.A an auditing firm, the nation did not receive due to bad settlements in 2004- 2008 over 23,000 million pesos and accused Ingeominas [the Colombian institute of Geology and Mining] of having accepted arbitration with a foreign company when Colombian law prohibits it. Also due to the bad settlement in the Prodeco-Glencore contract, Colombia lost $420,000. He added that Drummond did not pay Colombia almost a billion pesos between 1995 and 2007, through the value added tax, compensation and returns. He asked the government neither to renew the Cerro Matoso contract nor to proceed to new negotiations regarding contracts with any multinational companies unless they were debated before the Comision Quinta.
The Democratic Polo senator warned that Juan Manuel Santos would shower privileges upon the foreign mining industry and seeking to exclude the smaller and medium sized companies citing León Teicher, president of El Cerrejón, "just like the country was fortunate in having president Uribe during so many years, we are fortunate with president Santos."
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