An overview of Canadian mining operations in Colombia
Toronto-based Continental Gold’s Buriticá mine in the department of Antioquia.
Canada has a strong presence in Colombia’s mining sector.
In 2019, according to Natural Resources Canada, 23 Canadian mining companies held assets there totalling $1.38 billion. And the Colombian National Agency of Mining has stated Canadian companies hold 42 mining titles for copper, silver and gold.
The Trade Commissioner Service, a division of Global Affairs Canada that supports Canadian companies, has also identified mining as a priority area which it defines as “where Canadian capabilities and interest match local opportunities and demand.”
This investment environment has significantly been shaped by the 2001 Mining Code (Law 658/01); the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, ratified in 2011; and the Framework for Cooperation in Natural Resources, signed by Natural Resources Canada and Colombia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy in March 2016 at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto.
Notably, the Canada Colombia Chamber of Investment and Trade hosted the PDAC – Mining Opportunities in Colombia 2021 virtual event this past March that featured the Colombian Minister of Mines and Energy, Diego Mesa Puyo, and the President of the National Mining Agency, Juan Manuel Duran Prieto.
Minister Mesa highlighted in his presentation that the Fraser Institute’s annual survey of mining companies in 2020 ranked Colombia first in the Investment Attraction Index in Latam. He also noted that Colombia is working on a “new mining model” and with respect to “legality and security” pointed to the “protocol with the Ministry of Defense”.
There have been controversies with respect to Canadian mining interests in Colombia.
In 2006, Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, president of SINTRAMINERCOL, Colombia’s State Mine Workers Union, told the Inter Press Service that the involvement of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the 2001 Mining Code constituted a “Canadian manipulation to benefit foreign companies to the detriment of Colombians” and that it “flexibilised environmental regulations, diminished labour guarantees for workers and opened the property of afro-Colombian and indigenous people to exploitation.”
Then on September 2, 2011, Father José Reinel Restrepo was murdered reportedly because of his opposition to the Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold proposal for a vast open pit mine that would destroy the town of Marmato, Caldas.
Fr. Javier Giraldo has stated he believes Fr. Restrepo was murdered by paramilitary groups “secretly co-opted by the armed forces and by the government security agencies” who “do not hesitate to murder the leaders of this resistance.”
In 2016, Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals Corp. sued the Colombian government for $764 million after its Angostura gold concession in Santander was reduced following a constitutional court ruling and new regulations that expanded wetland protections.
And in December 2019, the Walrus reported that Gran Colombia Gold is involved in an investor-state challenge under the free trade agreement that accuses the Colombian government of failing to protect the company’s investment from “illegal miners” stealing gold ore from inside the company’s mining title near Segovia, Antioquia.
Mining in Antioquia
Prominent in a list of concessions near Ituango, Antioquia are Vancouver-based Cordoba Minerals (with 11 concessions), Toronto-based Continental Gold (with 4 concessions) along with its subsidiary CGL Berlin with 1 concession in the area.
Some of the Canadian mining projects in Antioquia also reportedly include the Toronto-based Antioquia Gold Cisneros mine, the Vancouver-based Red Eagle Mining San Ramón mine, and the Gran Colombia Gold Segovia and Marmato mines.
Two Canadian mines not yet in production in the area include the Continental Gold Buriticá mine and the Vancouver-based B2Gold Corp. Gramalote mine.
PBI-Colombia accompanies the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia (Cahucopana).
PBI-Colombia has noted: “Many of the people Cahucopana works with involved in artisanal gold mining. Parallel to small-scale gold mining, which has been an important economic activity for generations, large mining companies backed by the national government have begun to implement large-scale commercial mining projects.”
It further cautions: “As a result, social conflicts and armed violence in the area have intensified. Instead of bringing wealth, the precarious health and education situation and the lack of social investment and employment have worsened further. The systematic violation of the human rights of local communities is complemented by the deterioration of local ecosystems due to the effects on the environment caused, above all, by large-scale mining.”
Earlier this month, PBI-Colombia accompanied the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL) and leaders of Ituango at a virtual meeting with the Embassy of Canada in Colombia to discuss the humanitarian crisis in the area, a situation compounded by the construction of the Canadian-financed Ituango hydroelectric dam.
PBI-Canada continues to follow this situation with concern.
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) video of Francisco Ramirez Cuellar speaking in Canada, May 2012.