A 13-year fight against gold mining in Colombian community marches on

A 13-year fight against gold mining in Colombian community marches on

  • The Embera Karambá Indigenous community in Quinchía, Colombia, near Medellin, has been resisting large-scale gold mining activities in their region for 13 years.
  • The Miraflores mining company began holding meetings with the Embera Karambá community as part of the prior consultation process in 2015; six years after it started exploration activities in the area.
  • The governor of the community and a member of the Indigenous Guard have received anonymous death threats and unidentified people surveilling their homes. Since 2019, the Indigenous governor has been receiving protection from the National Protection Unit of the Colombian national government.
  • According to the mining company’s communications director, the mining company is making every effort to reach an agreement with the community and guarantee their right to prior consultation. However, consultation should not be used as a tool for opposition, he says.

(This report by La Cola de Rata is part of their series entitled Especial Tierra de Resistentes, which can be viewed here)


Edith Lucía Taborda Guevara is an anxious woman with dark curly hair and a gentle stride. However, if her name could be summarized in a word, it would be strength. She speaks with a booming, dramatic voice, no matter who she addresses. To members of the Embera Karambá Indigenous group, a community that has been part of the Embera Chamí people for 11 years, she is their lead governor.

In the Embera Karambá worldview, land cannot be sold or be subject to negotiations. Water is seen as a common resource that allows them to move forward as a people and for life to flow. And the gold beneath their feet is spoken about as the blood that runs through the veins of Mother Earth.

“This is how many things are here, if there is no water, there is no life, there is no nature, and we wouldn’t be here either,” says Edith Lucía. “For life on [our] territory, for [there to be] harmony, the gold needs to stay where it is, and that is why we are seeing so much disharmony on our land – in the areas where they are digging [for gold].”

In Quinchía, located in the Colombian department of Risaralda, those who work the land have always coexisted alongside mining activities. Such mining practices however – practiced by Indigenous peoples and mestizo locals alike – have always been artisanal, rather than industrial.

Kevin Hernández Vargas, a member of the Indigenous Guard. Photo courtesy of Maritza Palma Lozano.

The Indigenous peoples of the area do not reject artisanal mining, although Edith Lucía concedes that it still bleeds the gold reserves dry “bit by bit”. For the community, it is justifiable as long as it is done “not just to take out gold and hoard it, but so that there is at least a minimum for each family’s subsistence.”

“By doing it the way that we have been doing it for a very long time – for many years, many decades – we can carry on surviving, carry on eating and carry on living here among nature,” she explains. “But if a large-scale extraction project wants to start mining, whether it be open-pit or underground, then obviously the gold will all be used up.”

The Embera governor is referring to the mining company that arrived in the area in 2009. Originally, it was called Seafield S.A.S. and owned by Seafield Resources Ltd., a Canadian company. Slowly, the company became part of the Miraflores Mining Association, a local group that held a license for underground gold and silver mining since 1991.

Kevin Andrés Hernández Vargas, a member of the Embera Karambá Indigenous Guard and an artisanal miner, says that when the mining company arrived, they gathered the 38 partners of the association and told them that they were not able to hold the title as they didn’t have the resources to do so. “So they asked us, why didn’t we just sell it to them? This is when they began to infiltrate the association and meddle with things.”

In the end, Seafield managed to secure a partial assignment of rights from the small mining cooperative: at first, 10% in 2010, followed by a further 30% in January 2013. In November of that year, 100% of the rights and obligations of the contract belonged to them by virtue of their contributions.

In 2016, Seafield S.A.S. changed its name to Miraflores Compañía Minera S.A.S., while remaining under the control of its parent company, North Hill Colombia Inc., based in Red Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. This means that the company is registered in the world’s largest tax haven and the ninth most opaque jurisdiction in the world, according to the Financial Secrecy Index compiled by Tax Justice Network, an NGO focused on denouncing tax evasion, opaque financial networks and tax havens.

In 2013, when Seafield gained full control of the mining contract belonging to the small-scale miners, as well as 10 other mining concession contracts in the same municipality, Seafield received a $46.7 million loan from a company named RMB Australia Holdings in exchange for a mining security interest: exploration and exploitation rights to the mining concessions to act as guarantees for the loan. In 2014, Seafield was indebted and had little financial resources, which resulted in RMB stepping in and taking control of the company.

Mining concessions belonging to the Miraflores company. In red: pending requests. In blue and green: active concessions. / Image generated from the National Mining Agency of Colombia’s mapping tool.
Mining concessions belonging to the Miraflores company. In red: pending requests. In blue and green: active concessions. / Image generated from the National Mining Agency of Colombia’s mapping tool.

Currently, Miraflores is an affiliate of Los Cerros Limited (LCL), an Australian company owned by Metminco and Andes Resources Limited, two mining companies from the same country. Metminco has also received loans from RMB Australia Holdings. Since 2019, Miraflores held an estimated reserve of over 23.8 million grams (840,000 ounces) of gold in the village of Miraflores, 36.9 million grams (1.3 million ounces) in Tesorito, part of the village of Veracruz, and 13 million grams (460,000 ounces) in the village of Dosquebradas, adding up to a total of 73.7 million grams (2.6 million ounces) of gold in Quinchía. Since 2019, the company has also been extracting 54 grams (about 2 ounces) of gold per ton of mining material from another gold deposit in Chuscal as part of a joint venture with Anglo Gold Ashanti.

In total, as of 2022, the Miraflores mining company holds 12 active mining concessions (that is, mines where minerals are already being extracted or where extractive activities are due to start), three concessions where work has been completed or is in the process of being wound up, and a further four concessions that are pending approval. In total, these concessions cover an area of 4,861 hectares (12,012 acres). Four of the concessions were transferred to Miraflores by Anglo Gold Ashanti.

Exploration and extraction surround a village

At the entrance to the village of Miraflores, a narrow aqueduct pipe runs along the road. A few meters further up the road, on a patch of private property, sits a large tent emblazoned with the logo of the mining company that, against the wishes of local residents, uses the village’s name. The tent covers an exploration platform: a huge slab from which heavy machinery drills through the earth 24 hours a day. A little further up the road, there is a well that is used to deposit the slurry that is a by-product of the drilling. Further up on the corner, just before one arrives at the village’s football pitch, is an office with a white Nissan van parked outside, which during the day roams around the exploration platform.

The Miraflores mining company is currently extracting gold from some of its concessions. On others, work has either already been completed, machinery is being set up to commence extraction, or the concession has been given up. The exploration activities on the concessions in Veracruz, a village neighboring Miraflores, have taken place close to guaduales – a type of dry tropical forest similar to bamboo – riverbeds, and houses. In areas where the exploration platforms once stood lay grave-like numbered concrete slabs, pierced by vertical PVC tubes.

The title to the Miraflores concession includes an Environmental Management Plan that was approvedby the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Risaralda (Corporación Autónoma Regional de Risaralda –CARDER), which, according to the mining company, “was processed by another company”, although in the registry of the National Authority for Environmental Licensing it appears under the name of Miraflores S.A.S. The mining company told La Cola de la Rata “that this document is not being used for any type of activity in this moment” due to the fact that currently, “our company is not carrying out any type of work on the [gold] deposit, apart from technical and environmental viability studies for the future project.”

Exploration activities taking place just a few meters from a house. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.
Exploration activities taking place just a few meters from a house. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

In 2013, explorations had previously already taken place in Miraflores at one of the places where the company is seeking to spread its extractive activities. With Colombia’s National Mining Agency, Miraflores S.A.S. has only registered this mining title as a large-scale project. The others were reported to be medium-scale (in eight cases) and small-scale (in nine cases), although any of these projects could grow in size in the future.

The problem is that Miraflores is only home to 141 Karambá Indigenous people of the 4,902 that live in Quinchía. Seven of the concessions held by the mining company affect 11 villages where Indigenous Embera Karambá families live.

Kévin of the Indigenous Guard explains that the mining company has made a whole host of promises to the local community, be they miners, campesinos, mestizos or Indigenous peoples, including “promising […] compensation, pensions and productive projects” as well as, more importantly: jobs.

That’s why: “those who are in favor [of the mining project] say it’s our fault that they haven’t been able to fulfill those promises”, and, instead, “when they meet with the Indigenous community or with mining associations […] they tell us that they don’t have any money to give because they’re a very small company.”

In the company’s view, they focused on dealing with the non-Indigenous community because they are more numerous in size.

“The great majority of the inhabitants of the community of Miraflores are from non-Indigenous groups. Therefore, the company’s main relationship has been with the non-Indigenous community, with the village’s Community Action Board, [and] with the user associations for the aqueducts in the five villages in the area surrounding Miraflores,” explains Rafael Mateus, the director of Portex, the company in charge of running the Miraflores mining company’s communications.

Mateus also states that since 2016 the company has reached agreements with 193 miners who work in Miraflores’ artisanal mines, including some of the village’s inhabitants. Of those 193 miners, 180 have signed contracts with the company, which would mean that the company has invested an amount “by the order of 6,000 or 7,000 million pesos [between $1.5 million and $1.7 million].”

Rafael Mateus offered these explanations in a video call that took place on May 11, which Mateus asked for in order to “contextualize the company’s work”, with the aim of convincing the journalists of this report to reformulate questions that had been sent to Catalina Cadena, the company’s manager, a week earlier. (Miraflores S.A.S.’s complete answers to these questions can be viewed here).

Anonymous phone calls, death threats

Edith Lucía Taborda Guevara, the Karambá Indigenous governor, sees her work as a community leader as a mandate from God to “believe in, safeguard, protect and watch over Mother Earth.” She sees herself as standing strong but also recognizes that there have been “moments where we felt broken.”

She spoke of how, in late 2012, artisanal miners from the village of Mápura approached her community over concerns that they could no longer continue to carry out gold panning activities that they had done for generations on the riverbed between the Aguas Claras ravine and the Mápura River, which receives the water of the Batero River.

“They could see that the water flowing downstream was white and [when] they got in the water and started panning [for gold], they got out right away, their feet were burning, their hands were burning, so they couldn’t continue,” Edith Lucía says.

Miners and members of the Indigenous community suspect that the substance which left them with the burning sensation was a waste product of the perforations that Seafield S.A.S. and another company had been carrying out further upstream, as part of their work prospecting for and extracting gold. In order to be able to confirm or dispel their suspicions, they asked for the departmental environment authorities (CARDER) to carry out a physical-chemical study of the water. At first their request was ignored, however, after much insistence, a visit took place in 2013.

On the day of the visit, Edith Lucía said, she met with the CARDER employee taking part in the visit in the village and set off to the inspection sites in a van belonging to the departmental body. Upon arrival, Edith Lucía recalls, the CARDER employee stated that they would only carry out a check of the site by eye, in response to which Edith Lucía told them that “this was pointless […] since we knew that what we needed to know was what exactly was burning the hands and feet of our partners.”

Edith Lucía Taborda Guevara, leader governor of the Embera Karambá. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.
Edith Lucía Taborda Guevara, leader governor of the Embera Karambá. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

Minutes later, Edith Lucía received a message on her cell phone:

“We’re heading down now with the Karambá governor.”

Edith Lucía suspects that the message was actually intended for someone else – someone for the mining company. She suspected that CARDER had warned the company about the inspection.

The visit ended in Mápura, where they crossed paths with a former professor from the Technical University of Pereira, who in this period was working for the mining company. Edith Lucía reiterates her discontent over the fact that the inspection had only taken place by eye, arguing that the “traces in the water would stick around for a while if it was summer, but with the coming of winter they would fade away, and you would no longer find anything” just by looking at it. Edith Lucía recalls how at one point during 2013, the former university professor advised her that she should not go to the area on her own.

“I think that more than anything, he said it because he is a good person, but when someone says something [like that], it’s because they know that something ugly could happen […] I was accompanied by a guard, and she filed a complaint [about the incident],” the Karambá governor adds.

Her concern over the issue followed another worrying episode a year earlier, in 2012, when she received an anonymous death threat via telephone. The incident came shortly after she had taken up her position as governor of her community. After that point, she could not travel around her territory frequently or safely.

Institutions that make up the Colombian state have confirmed these fears. The Ombudsman Office reported the following episode concerning Edith Lucía:

“On May 4, 2019, at approximately 7:00 p.m., an unknown man was spying on the entrance to the house of the governor Edith Taborda, in the village of Batero. The man, who was speaking on his cell phone and observing the governor’s family members throughout, looked inside the house. The man was stationed opposite the house for around one hour, after which he moved six meters (about 20 feet) further away, where he stayed for another hour.

“Members of the Indigenous guard tried to reach the man in order to identify him, however, upon becoming aware of the presence of the guard, the man moved away towards a shop, returned, and eventually came back to the same place. In the end, the man fled through the fields of coffee crops.”

In the same alert, the Ombudsman detailed other situations featuring armed men, between 2017 and 2019, which impacted the mobility of, or directly intimidated campesino leaders, land claimants, environmentalists, and ethnic authorities from the Embera Chamí Indigenous people from the municipality of Quinchía which the Embera Karambá and Embera Chamí communities are part of, as well as the Escopetera Pirza Indigenous reserve.

Edith Lucía has also provided evidence of how unknown men have spied on her or drones have flown over her house at night.

“What they are doing is not considered a crime, but it is a way of tracking and monitoring someone,” Edith Lucía adds.

Recently, in 2021, she received another death threat via text message. This time, it happened after she had attended a roadblock demonstration against the arrival of mining machinery. In the message, they wrote that they were going to kill her.

Due to these threats, the Embera Karambá leader has been receiving protection from the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) of the Colombian national government since 2019. She feels, however, that the interest and concern of those involved in the protection scheme have waned.

In 2016, a risk report published by the Ombudsman recommended that the UNP set up a collective protection program for the Indigenous communities and authorities of Quinchía.

Mining exploration taking place just a few meters from a guadual, or bamboo-like forest. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.
Mining exploration taking place just a few meters from a guadual, or bamboo-like forest. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

In the 2019 alert about the issue, the body noted that “only by April 2018 was the collective protection route for the Embera Karambá partiality activated, and in November 2018, a workshop was held to agree upon measures to take.”

In a 2020 follow-up document that was sent to the Interior Ministry of Colombia, the Ombudsman warned that no progress had been made in the implementation of the measures, despite the fact that on August 30, 2019, the case had passed through the Committee for Risk Assessment and Recommendation of Measures (Cerrem) and that the “proposal designed by the UNP of the individual protection route and the collective protection route had been sent to both the Mayor’s Office of Quinchía and the Governor’s Office of Risaralda. The report also expressed concerns over the fact that “an appropriate response by the institutions did not exist when it came to the question of Indigenous communities.”

The team of journalists behind this report contacted Absalón Trejos Arias, the Mayor of Quinchía, for comment about the participation of the Mayor’s Office in cases concerning the Karambá Indigenous community. No answer had been received by the time this report was published.

Other members of the community have said that, although they have not received direct threats like their lead governor, they have been subjected to intimidating behavior. Kevin Hernández of the Indigenous guard has seen men outside his house, asking about him without ever identifying themselves. He has also received phone calls in which he is asked his whereabouts, where he is going and what plans he has, with such questions always coming from people who do not reveal their identity.

“It’s better to go about things with caution,” he says.

Edith Lucía Taborda says that “love for her territory, for Mother Nature, for her family and for the people who live here,” keeps her going in the face of such threats.

“It is the will and desire to be able to leave something beautiful for the next generations because “[our] territory is the most sacred thing we have,” she tells Mongabay.

Wiped off the Interior Ministry’s map

On April 25, 2014, the criminal chamber of the Superior Court of Pereira notified the Ministry of Mines and Energy of a first instance ruling in response to a tutela, or writ of amparo, filed against the Seafield S.A.S mining company by Edith Taborda and Luis Arley Guapacha, the then governor of another Indigenous community in Quinchía, the Embera Chamí.

The two communities argued that Seafield S.A.S. had violated their right to free, prior and informed consultation regarding potential extractive activities, which, they claim, has affected Karambá families in Miraflores and Chamí families in the villages of Limón, Santa María and El Naranjal.

A mining platform nestled among the mountains in Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.
A mining platform nestled among the mountains in Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

The mining company defended itself by illustrating how its actions were in line with national norms. In its defense, it argued that in 2012 the then legal representative of Seafield S.A.S., Giovanny Ortiz, had contacted the management team in charge of prior consultation at the Interior Ministry in order to ask them for guarantees about the existence of ethnic communities in six important points of influence of the 010-87M mining title it held.

The Colombian government’s response, the company told a tribunal, confirmed that the area was not inhabited by Indigenous communities or groups.

“There is no record of established [Indigenous] reserves, communities outside these reserves, community councils, the awarding of collective titles […] nor can the presence of other ethnic groups be identified,” declared the topographic engineer Beatriz Leguizamón in the ministry’s resolution no.1,952 in 2012.

This response, however, contradicted another piece of official information from the Colombian state. The Embera Karambá Indigenous community was recognized in 2007 by the old Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER), which was in charge of managing land belonging to ethnic groups. The Embera Chamí community, meanwhile, has been recognized as such since 1997 (DET OFI6271). Because of this, in 2013, the Interior Ministry had to release a new framework that would recognize the presence of the Karambá Indigenous community in the mining company’s work coordinates.

The Indigenous people’s tutela was denied as inadmissible, but ─ in the same ruling ─ the magistrates urged Seafield S.A.S. to “in the shortest possible time, and if it has not yet done so, proceed to request the Interior Ministry’s prior consultation department to carry out the prior consultation with the members of the Indigenous groups.” It also highlighted the case of the Karambá community from Miraflores.

The Risaralda Supreme Court insisted that there had been no rights violations on the part of the mining company or the ministry. “The former because it initially acted under a certification that stated that in the area of influence of the 010-87M mining title there was no presence of Indigenous communities, and the latter because, to date, it has not been requested to initiate the consultation process,” said a court statement.

Even so, it reaffirmed in its ruling that “this does not mean to say that the company in question doesn’t need to carry out the consultation.”

The Miraflores company only began holding meetings with the Embera Karambá community as part of the prior consultation process in 2015; that is, six years after it started exploration activities in the area.

Rafael Mateus explained that this became a necessity because, although they had been told in 2011 that there were no Indigenous groups in the area, “when we started the social baseline survey, we realized that in Miraflores there were a number of families who identified themselves as Embera Karambá. The company made every effort to reach an agreement with them.”

He adds that the consultation process took place with both the Embera Karambá as well as the Embera Chamí. No agreement was reached with the Embera Karambá.

Albeiro de Jesus Trejos, a member of the Indigenous guard. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

2015 was a tense year. From the point of view of the Indigenous groups, the consultation was, in fact, more like an argument, forcing them to accept the mining project, whether they liked it or not. For Edith Lucía, the Karambá governor, even state employees themselves acted, in her words, “not as guarantors of the process,” rather “they were submissive to whatever the company said”, while those who “spoke out a little in favor of the community […] were vetoed and taken off the case, and others were sent [in their place].”

Because of this, in the run-up to the final consultation meeting, Edith Lucía sought legal advice from organizations such as Dejusticia, Tierra Digna and Podion, and denounced the co-optation of guarantors to the local seat of the Ombudsman’s Office. She managed to secure the participation of a new set of delegates from a range of national public bodies to supervise the closing phase of the consultation process.

September 2015 saw the end of the technical discussions surrounding how best to carry out the environmental and territorial impact assessments in a way that would allow the Indigenous community to have concrete information about how their territory would be impacted by the mining project in order to be able to then decide whether they would consent to extractive activities or not.

The Karambá group argued that the studies should be jointly carried out by the mining company and the Indigenous community, to which end they proposed a methodological plan of action that consisted of socializing the impacts of the activities, collecting information in order to identify the environmental, socio-cultural, economic-productive, and political organizational effects of the projects and, finally, creating a water laboratory to examine the current and possible (future) effects on the water sources.

This would allow them to prepare a mitigation plan, according to Edith Lucía. The consultation meetings were held in the Quinchía theater.

Rafael Mateus indicated that the pre-consultation process lasted 17 months and that “every effort was made, primarily to reach an agreement on the methodological plan, and this was not successful.”

The company adds that the Directorate of Prior Consultation closed the Consultation Without Agreements, guaranteeing the right of the community and authorizing the company to continue with its exploration and extraction process for 010-87M [mining] title and, therefore, the preparation of the necessary studies for the environmental licensing application.

The lawyer Fernando Herrera explains that, in effect, the consultation process can be brought to an end for a variety of reasons, including in the event of partial agreements being reached – that is, that the community gives the green light for the project under certain conditions – or because no agreement has been reached.

In the event of the latter, Herrera argues, Decree no.1,397 from 1996 can be applied, which states that “no work, exploration, exploitation, or investment can be carried out on Indigenous territory without prior agreement with Indigenous authorities, communities and their organizations.” Furthermore, environmental licenses cannot be awarded without studies on the economic, social, and cultural impacts on the Indigenous peoples or communities, which will make up part of the environmental impact studies.

“If these projects are not approved by the Assembly of Authorities, then these projects are not legal and what it says there in the National Authority for Environmental Licensing is that they shouldn’t receive an environmental license,” Herrera says.

“What the institutions say is that prior consultation should happen alongside the environmental licensing process, however, since the exploration [activities] don’t have an environmental license, they start the exploration without prior consultation,” says Julio Fierro Morales, a geologist who has worked on issues related to mining activities in the Sandra Morelli comptroller and is currently the head of the Corporación Terrae.

Edit Ladino. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.
Edit Ladino. Photo courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.

In Colombia, judgments have previously been issued in favor of other Indigenous communities facing similar scenarios that have sought protection from state entities for arbitrary practices that have affected their right to consultation. In one such case, the Court admitted that the effects of both exploration and exploitation could impact the environment, the health or the social, economic and cultural structure of an Indigenous community.

Rafael Mateus argued that “enough guarantees have been given to the Embera Karambá community in order for them to exercise their fundamental right to prior consultation.”

According to his interpretation of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, prior consultation is “the effective participation of the people who could be affected, so that they understand, participate in, and can agree with the operator upon a way in which the impacts are going to be managed,” but, it warns, “it is not a tool for opposition.”

After the failed consultation process, the mining company continued to hold roundtable meetings with artisanal miners, to which it invited leaders from the Karambá community. The most recent of these meetings took place in May 2022. Edit Ladino, another Karambá Indigenous figure, explained how they attended only as listeners, however, the Karambá are demanding that the Interior Ministry are present at the meetings and that these roundtable meetings do not in any way replace the consultation process.

The mining company told the team of journalists behind this report that “the process of prior consultation has in this case already been conducted,” but that this “does not mean that the dialogue with this community has been ended by the company.”

“The whole team from our company remains ready to listen to the community and have a dialogue,” it reiterates.

“The Miraflores company will not succeed”

“They said that in any case, they will enter our territory, whether we agree to it or not, that they’ll find a way, so we have always go out [to meet them] when they have come to install machinery when they come to set up platforms, carry out studies; we have always gone to meet them and ask them: ‘What are you doing and with whose permission?’,” says Edit Ladino.

The mining company has had a special interest in starting exploitation and carrying out more explorations in Miraflores. It has resorted to the purchase of land – in some cases, they have documents that support their property claims (such as holding the rights to 33.333% of the El Oro plot of land), in other cases, they do not. They have also imposed administrative acts against artisanal miners before the National Mining Agency; it has filed lawsuits against Karambá Indigenous leaders of the village, and it has sent personnel to carry out research or exploration work even without prior consultation or permission.

All of this has been stopped by the Karambá community, acting with the conviction that they are an autonomous authority in their territory.

Four Indigenous guards from Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Maritza Palma Lozano.
Four Indigenous guards from Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Maritza Palma Lozano.

Rafael Mateus, from the mining company, justifies his company’s activities in attempting to move in machinery without the permission of the Embera Karambá community, “firstly [because they are] public roads, and public roads can be used freely by all Colombians, including companies.”

He also clarified that “the exploration activities have been carried out on property that either belongs to the company or to private individuals who have given their permission to do so,” and maintained that “it is not as though it is communal land […] those who own the properties act as legal individuals.” In conclusion, he says, they only have to obtain permits from government agencies.

Recently, Rafael Molina, the local councilman, made an overture to Edith and Wilber. On May 9, 2022, he visited them at their home and indicated that he could guarantee a job for Edith’s brother, who had previously sent his resume to the company.

In the audio recording of the visit, the councilman can be heard saying to them: “She [Catalina Cadena, the mining company’s manager] sent me to tell you that she is very interested in you two, who are the ones who run things in Miraflores, authorizing and allowing her to bring the machinery up there [to the Las Pilas plot of land] for 15 days.”

The company stated that “they are continuing to search for channels of dialogue with their Embera Karambá brothers from the village of Miraflores in order to be able to move the drill to the area in order to be able to start the drilling work which will employ people from the village, as has been the case in other areas where drilling has taken place, thereby providing income to them and their families.”

On at least three occasions, the company has gone up to the village accompanied by state security forces: in February 2020, during a visit by the National Mining Agency for an administrative task; in April 2021, when the company tried to install the machinery, and in October 2021, during another attempt to install a perforation drill in order to carry out explorations, police officers, including anti-explosives specialists, attended.

On the administrative visit in 2020, the army was present, despite the fact that the National Mining Agency’s own report of the visit states: “During the visit, there was no escort from the National Police, some units of the National Army were present that also did not accompany the tour.” In each case, the presence of the public forces was recorded in photographs taken by the Indigenous community.

Kevin Hernández Vargas. Photo courtesy of Maritza Palma Lozano.
Kevin Hernández Vargas. Photo courtesy of Maritza Palma Lozano.

Miraflores S.A.S. claimed that during 2022 they have also “tried to bring a drill [there].”

Albeiro de Jesús Trejos, a community member, reiterates: “It has been up to us, as the saying goes, to stand up and to stop the machinery so as not to let them come up here […] We are ready to defend our territory.”

On February 17, 2021, when 50 Indigenous Guards from the Embera Karambá community spent the night in the mountains under rainfall, the National Mining Agency requested that they allow its employees to access the plots of land that are covered by the 010-87M mining title. The Indigenous guards, dressed in green uniforms, put themselves in the way in order to block off the road. Their motivation is linked to the core of their beliefs and values.

“One carries on fighting because Mother Earth is one’s spiritual and Indigenous priority and for us, the most important thing is to say that we will die where we were born,” says Edit Ladino.


*Read the full report on Tierra de Resistentes.

Banner image: Indigenous Guards from the mountains of Miraflores, Quinchía, department of Risaralda, Colombia. Image courtesy of Sandra Bejarano Aguirre.


This story first appeared on Mongabay

South Africa Today – Environment

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Mongabay, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.