Certified Oro Verde mine in Chocó, Colombia, 2012. Photograph by J. Kolen.

Certified Oro Verde mine in Chocó, Colombia, 2012. Photograph by J. Kolen.

According to the United Nations, per capita mercury pollution rates in Colombia are the highest in the world. In the last decade, several networks of organizations have been formed, advocating for the protection of human, ethnic and land rights as well as for environmental protection in the mining sector.

In Colombia, for mineral exploitation, one needs an environmental license based on an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EIA includes a description of the project, the renewable resources that will be affected, and mitigation, restoration and compensation activities. Depending on the size of the mining project, the environmental license is issued by the Environmental Ministry or the Regional Environmental Authority.

Water pollution from mining in Colombia has been connected to mercury and cyanide use as well as sedimentation of water bodies. It is estimated that between 50 to 100 tons of mercury per year contaminate water ways. In Antioquia alone approximately 50 tons of mercury contaminate rivers in the municipalities of Remedios, Segovia, Zaragoza, El Bagre, and Niza, where 90 percent of the population live from mining.

Since 2010, inter-institutional and community networks have been established in the Pacific region and the department of Chocó, focusing on social, economic and environmental responsibilities. Some of these networks are the Permanent Board for Responsible Mining in the Colombian Pacific and the Inter-Institutional Committee for the Promotion of Responsible Mining in Biogeographic Chocó. ASOMIRCOL (Association for Responsible Mining and Fair Trade in Southwest Colombia) was created as a collective effort to support responsible ASM practices and community development.

The Oro Verde program in the Chocó Bioregion of Colombia was the inspiration behind the creation of the Alliance for Responsible Mining, who have pioneered Green Gold. Check their website: www.communitymining.org.

Read more:

GOMIAM Publications

  • Luning, Sabine and Marjo de Theije (2014) “Global Gold Connections: Ethical Consumption and the Beauty of Bonding Artisans”. In Barendregt & Jaffe (eds.) Green Consumption. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.