On 15 May 2015, Colombia’s State Council, the country’s highest administrative court, suspended three executive decisions that had demarcated 516 specific zones as “Strategic Mining Areas” or “Mining Blocks.”
The Strategic Mining Areas cover 20,471,346.7 ha, approximately 20.3% of Colombia’s area. The national government demarcated said mining areas in order to auction them to private enterprises for large-scale exploration and exploitation of strategic minerals.
The national government took a high-stakes administrative decision for the country: altering the productive land use of a vast number of rural territories, many of which have a natural vocation for agricultural activities and environmental conservation. In addition, the mining blocks overlap with ethnic and campesino territories without these peoples’ prior, free and informed consent. Finally, they include important ecosystems, such as the biogeographical regions of Chocó, the Amazon and the Colombian Massif.
The State Council temporarily suspended the Strategic Mining Areas in response to an annulment lawsuit filed by the Centro de Estudios para la Justicia Social Tierra Digna. The lawsuit questioned the legality of these governmental decisions and prompted the State Council to suspend the executive decisions. In its ruling the Council verified a violation of ethnic communities’ right to prior consultation. As such, the ruling also upheld the State’s obligation to guarantee prior consultation in all administrative measures and decisions that seek to implement development plans and mining extraction in Colombia.
Tierra Digna will continue to defend peoples’ territories, culture and life, under dignified conditions.
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