Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mine raids in Boyaca

This is an article from the El Tiempo newspaper. It relates how authorities have temporarily closed 300 artisanal coal mines here in our state of Boyaca. I know that many of these mines are dangerous and do not conform with regulations. But it is appalling to me that mining authorities deprive people of their livelihood here in our impoverished area, while considering approval for a gold mine in the sensitive paramo ecosystem in another part of Colombia, even though the mining legislation expressly forbids mining in the paramo. Boyaca's small coal mines tend to be simple holes punched in the side of a hill. They don't involve stripping natural vegetation, leaching minerals with cyanide, or generating large amounts of rocky waste. Any danger is often to the person who has chosen to open and operate the mine, resulting in some 20 deaths yearly and many more injuries. But this low level of somewhat freely chosen risk is nothing compared to the effects of the proposed Greystar gold mine, which would denude a sensitive landscape and poison the drinking water of millions of people.

It often seems like the Colombian authorities are committed to screwing the little guy. Our state is relatively peaceful despite widespread poverty. I think this is largely because the small farmers, miners, and other independent workers that comprise our populace are able to eke out at least a meager living. But with actions like these mine raids, or shutting down local slaughterhouses, existence becomes even more precarious for our humble people.

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