IFC Cited in Colombian Gold Mine Complaint
25 Jun 2012 - 00:00 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
Colombia, BOGOTA — Colombian residents living near a 9 million-ounce gold mine have issued a complaint against the World Bank Group for its investment in the development.
Diverse groups from Bucharamanga claimed the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector lending arm of the World Bank, contravened its own policies when it invested in Eco Oro Minerals Corp’s Angostura mine.
According to the complaint, the IFC failed to evaluate the potentially severe and irreversible social and environmental impacts of the project, the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense(AIDA) reported in mid-June.
The mega mine is designed to exploit one of South America’s largest gold deposits, which lies in the Santurbán páramo, a high-altitude wetland that provides water to 2.2 million people.
Nearly 40 groups living downstream from the páramo came together to form the Committee for the Defense of Water and the Santurbán Páramo. The committee alleges that the IFC invested $11.79 million USD in the project’s parent company -- then Greystar Resources -- in 2009, before the required environmental and social impact assessments had been fulfilled.
The action was filed with the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO), the independent grievance mechanism of the IFC.
“We think it is outrageous that such a damaging mining initiative has the backing of the World Bank, whose mission is to advance real and sustainable development,” said attorney Miguel Ramos, member of the committee, which has urged the IFC to withdraw its funds and for the CAO to perform an audit of the project.
“The IFC promotes itself as a leader in environmental and social standards. Its stamp of approval paves the way for other investors,” said Natalia Jiménez Galindo, a lawyer with AIDA. Campaigners claim the IFC backing for the Angostura mine project has led at least five other mining companies to seek concessions in the páramo.
The company behind the mine, Eco Oro, has faced public demonstrations over the project’s environmental impact. Following protests, it backtracked from its original plan for an open-pit mine to a completely underground operation, which it says, “will have a much smaller surface footprint.”
The Canadian mining firm states on its website that it is “committed to developing the Angostura Project in a socially and environmentally responsible manner that will be beneficial for all stakeholders, including; shareholders, local and regional stakeholders, as well as Colombians as a whole.”
Angostura is Eco Oro’s principal activity, and has an initial capital cost of $529 million USD, according to the preliminary economic assessment. At stake is production of 222,000 to 303,000 gold-equivalent ounces per year for 10 years.
The mine’s backers say that if campaigners succeed in halting the project, illegal miners would step in with worse environmental consequences.
Last April, Cesar Diaz, executive director of the Colombian Chamber of Mining, warned: “That gold will be extracted by someone. It won't be a company with good practices. It won't be a company that had eliminated the use of mercury.”