It’s not often enough that I write to you about a big win. But today, I have GREAT news.
The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank has divested from Eco Oro Minerals - the Canadian company seeking to operate a mining project in the Santurbán páramo, one of Colombia’s 34 high altitude wetlands. For years, we’ve been working with partners to stop this terrible project that could contaminate the freshwater of millions of Colombians.
Today’s victory for the Santurbán páramo sets a vital precedent for the future of Colombia’s 30+ other high altitude wetlands.
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Over the last two years, 50,000 Colombians have taken to the streets to oppose the proposed gold mine. CIEL has helped bring a complaint to the Bank’s oversight office - a complaint that in August of this year finally bore fruit: the report condemned the Bank’s investment, finding that it had violated its own social and environmental policies by funding the project. But the IFC's investment remained, and in doing nothing, the Bank condoned the mine and lent it the World Bank seal of approval.
Not even when Colombia’s highest court ruled that mining the páramos was illegal did the Bank withdraw its investment.
So when the company announced it would sue Colombia for protecting people’s right to water using investor-state arbitration, we turned to you. And friend, YOU responded. Thousands of you wrote to the IFC, demanding that it divest from a project whose sole purpose had become the extortion of the Colombian government for protecting the public interest.
Over the past few years, tens of thousands of you - our online community - have taken action to protect the páramo, signing petitions and sending emails to World Bank officials. Truly, you’ve played a vital part in raising the profile of this ill-advised mine.
And it couldn’t come at a more critical time. With the signing of the Peace Accords, areas of Colombia that had been previously unreachable due to violence and conflict are now accessible for the first time - Areas that have already been concessioned to mining interests. Among these are concessions in the 33 other páramos across the country.
What happens to the Santurbán páramo will set the tone for the future of Colombia’s other high altitude wetlands. By protecting Santurbán, we protect them all.
So today, we celebrate the World Bank’s divestment from Eco Oro Minerals, and we thank you for all you have done in supporting this work.
And tomorrow and in the year to come, we will continue to support our partners from the Páramo de Santurbán because this work is far from over. With the World Bank’s divestment, Eco Oro will likely find it harder to find other investors, but the company is vehemently pursuing its corporate extortion of Colombia through investor-state arbitration. We hope we can count on you in the year ahead.
Carla García Zendejas
People, Land & Resources Program Director