Impact of La Colosa

A project of such a huge scale implies an enormous impact, both on ecological and social level.

Ecological impact

The case 'La Colosa: a death foretold' forecasts multiple impacts such as the dumping of rock debris (from the Tailings Storage Facility), as well as consumption of water and electricity of the scheduled open-pit mine.

  • Dumping of rock debris: The authors deem it probable the mine will produce 100 million tons of waste rock debris during its total lifespan. It's not only the huge quantity of debris to be dumped elsewhere, that will cause problems. Because of the high concentration of metals in the waste rock, the dump will lead to contamination of both surface and ground water ('acid mine drainage'). This contamination will remain present after the closing of the mine.
  • The Tailings Storage Facility (Tailings dam): Because of topography, it's not possible to build the Tailings Storage Facility next to the open-pit mine. Therefore, the it would be constructed 100 km away from Cajamarca, in a more flat area. The Tailings Storage Facility of the La Colosa project impends to be the biggest dam in the world. According to the company, it would be 250 meters high and have a capacity of 1420 million tons. The dam also threatens local people.  The global ratio of problems and errors in these kinds of dams is high. Because of the great height, the potential risks are likely to be more factual.
  • Paramos and water consumption: The Paramos is a unique ecosystem of plants in the Northern Andes, right underneath the snowline. It's very valuable because of its water storage capacity, which guarantees humidification and fertility of lower areas. 50 hectares of the La Colosa project are situated in Paramos area. According to presentations AGA offers to its investors, it appears AGA has carried out drillings in the area where the Paramos begin
    La Colosa implies threats for conservation of both Paramas and sub-Paramos area. Furthermore, it threatens the amount available water for consumption and agriculture, because water consumption for mining is very water intensive. Climate change is expected to induce water shortage in the Tolima department. The La Colosa project would only aggravate this proces.
  • Electricity consumption: It's foreseen that the demand for electricity of the future mine would transcend the demand of the local population in the Tolima departement. Therefore, it seems the massive hydrologic projects in Colombia and Tolima are supposed to provide electricity for projects such as La Colosa. These projects have, in their turn, an enormous impact on natural ecosystems.
    Currently, local inhabitants of Cajamarca can already sense the impact of the mining company in their everyday lives. Under the guise of corporate social responsibility, the company polarises the local community by means of their projects and the employment factor. Locals who receive direct support of the company, are supposed to support the company. During the last years, a discord has arisen between the local inhabitants who are supporting and those who are opposing the construction of the mine. On local political level, 9 in 11 town councillors consider the mine as unavoidable. 

Although still in state of exploration, the presence of the mining company has already had a big impact on social and economic structures in Cajamarca, i.e. rental rates. Because of those large scale projects (such as the planned La Colosa project), those rental prices have multiplied fivefold. Likewise, homeowners prefer to rent their residences to labourers who arrive from outside Cajamarca, instead of renting to families with children and single mothers (Colombia solidarity project, 88).  On top of that, nutrition prices have increased as well.

Social protest                                              

Since the mining company disclosed its ambition in 2007 to build the La Colosa Project, the local citizenry started to unite. People get on the street to protest the company's presence. They furthermore denounce its irregularities and defend alternative visions for the region. In Cajamarca, different organisations arose: the youth collective COSAJUCA, another organisation promoting local eco-tourism as an alternative development project for the region and different agricultural organisations promoting small scale agriculture (i.e. Apacra & UCAT). In 2010, the Comité ambiental en defensa de la vide arose. This committee unites citizen initiatives, collectives, environmental movements, students academics and independent citizens. The committee grew stronger ever since and has lead to the start up of new committees in different municipalities. The academic involvement of the movements that arose within the University of Tolima & the UniQuindo is important to mention.

Since 2009, citizens and social movements have noted protest against the construction of the mine: through public hearing, a juridical claim in the form of a group claim against environmental and mining authorities of the Columbian state. Furthermore through a great number of protest marches, called the 'Marchas Carnivales', through public debate, village assemblies and local referenda. On political level, there are also voices asking for the mining concession to be given up, such as the mayor of Ibagué and some members of parliament, who gave visibility to the case in parliament.

One of the most important events in the protest actions, was the local referendum of Piedras during July 2013. During this referendum, the question was asked, whether the company should have been granted permission to its mining activities in de municipality. 99% of the present voters opposed to the access of the company in the region. This was the first time a local referendum about mining activities took place. Because of this, there was a great interest of national media. Although the referendum is a legal binding mechanism within the Colombian constitution, the Colombian court of justice doubted the legal character in which the referendum was held.

In 2016, local organisations and movements from Cajamarca will organise another local referendum, in order to delay and stop the project.