Embera reject mining on their lands, say that any investment would be “stained with our blood”

Published by Brent Patterson on

Still from PBI-Colombia video, May 2012.

Indigenous Embera communities continue to reject mining on their territories in the Jiguamiando River Basin in north-western Colombia. This would include access to their ancestral lands by the Vancouver-based MCC Mining Corporation.

This statement from the Embera highlights: “Any investment in our territory can be accused of being stained with our blood and with terrible damage to our mother earth. Currently there are 20 leaders threatened with death.”

The PBI-Colombia accompanied Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace has helped to amplify solidarity actions in support of Embera opposition to mining on their lands.

The Commission posted this Open Letter from eight organizations based in Spain and Asturias (an autonomous community in northwest Spain) addressed to Hamyr Eduardo González Morales, the president of Minera Cobre SAS.

That open letter says: “We know that the Minera Cobre SAS and by extension the Canadian MCC [Minera Cobre de Colombia] Mining Corporation, are heirs of the militarization and terror unleashed for the benefit of the Muriel Mining Corporation.”

For context, the Muriel Mining Company was granted mining permits in 2005 that included the sacred Jaikatuma mountain (also known as Careperro mountain) situated in the Uradá-Jiguamiandó Humanitarian Reservation and surrounding territories.

Adriana Arboleda Betancur, a lawyer with the Corporation for Judicial Freedom, has written: “Permits were granted without prior consultation [with the Embera] and misleading some community leaders — who were made to sign meeting minutes, which the company then sought to assert as a consultation.”

Arboleda adds: “Nor were environmental impact studies carried out, despite the fact that this exploitation implied affecting the flow and route of the Murindó River, the source of life of these indigenous communities.”

The Muriel Mining Company began exploration on the mountain on January 5, 2009.

The following day, as the Commission has reported, the Indigenous Embera Katio and Oibida communities in Jiguamiandó saw Colombian Army helicopters escorting Muriel Mining Corporation through their ancestral territory to Jaikatuma mountain.

Embera women led the opposition to the mining company.

Remelina Sinigui of the Uradá-Jiguamiandó reserve has stated: “[When the company arrived] we decided to climb to the top of Careperro Mountain and we stayed there for six weeks until the company workers left.”

She added: “The land is our mother, because she gives us life, she gives us the river, the forests, and for this reason we will continue the struggle.”

Embera land defender Remelina Sinigui.

While a court ruling subsequently suspended Muriel’s operations, MiningWatch Canada has noted: “As of April 2011, Vancouver-based Sunward Resources Ltd acquired Muriel Mining Corporation with intentions to continue to the project, and the national government had yet to implement the court’s decision.”

The open letter from Spanish and Asturian activists to González Morales concludes: “We demand that you suspend all the maneuvers deployed by Minera Cobre SAS and [the Canadian] MCC Mining Corporation, to access by illegal means the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples and black communities.”

PBI-Colombia has accompanied the Justice and Peace Commission since 1994 and the Corporation for Judicial Freedom since 2000. We join with PBI-Colombia in following this situation with great concern.

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