Eco Oro - Threatening the Paramo
For people in the Santurban region in Colombia, the mountain paramo quenches their
thirst. A paramo is a mountainous ecosystem which serves a a sponge - releasing fresh
water throughout the year. Paramos are rare and unique, home to an incredible number
of fragile flora and fauna. In Colombia, they provide 75% of the country's fresh water. The largest paramo in Colombia is Santurban. It supplies water to a population of 2.2 million people in over 22 cities and towns. In a country where many major cities do not have access to potable water, access to and protection of the paramo is vital for agricultural activities and daily survival.
The Santurban paramo also sits on top of one of the largest gold and silver deposits in the world, estimated to contain 9 million ounces of minerals. In 1995, Greystar Resources, a Canadian extraction company, began exploring the Angostura mineral deposit in Santurban and proposed an open-pit mining project. Extraction of this scale would require thousands of tonnes of water and chemicals such as mercury and cyanide to be stored in pools in the Santurban ecosystem.
The fight to protect and preserve the Santurban paramo from this mega mining project
has been a long and arduous battle, yet to be won. This is the story of Colombians courageously defending their mountain.
Since this video was made, Colombians have continued the fight to protect their land. Part of their fight is against Colombia’s mining laws and National Development Plan. Trade unionists and other activists accuse the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and now the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Development (DFAITD) of shaping the legislation to advance the interests of Canadian extraction companies operating in the country. Specifically Code 173 of the Plan allowed mining companies access to Colombia’s previously protected paramos. The
constitutional court recently struck down Code 173, potentially voiding up to 350 mining
permits. This is a huge win for the fragile ecosystems and the cities and towns that depend on that water. However, the struggle continues to stake out the limits of paramos. Experts state that all mountain ecosystems are intricately connected, and extractive projects in any part of the high-mountain moorlands would affect another part. Paramos are not self-contained and there is no logical way of assigning clear limits or of diving high-mountains in a safe way.