Rights of Embera upheld against mining companies

A community of the indigenous tribe embera standing in a clearing

May 31, 2012

The communities of the indigenous tribe Embera in Colombia rejected a mining project and their wish was confirmed by the constitutional court. Rio Tinto, Sunward and MMC are not allowed to develop the mine on their territory. The presence of mining companies here had led to the militarisation of the area and to human rights abuses.

 

The communities of the indigenous tribe Embera in Colombia rejected a mining project and their wish was confirmed by the constitutional court. Rio Tinto, Sunward and MMC are not allowed to develop the mine on their territory. The presence of mining companies here had led to the militarisation of the area and to human rights abuses.

For this reason, Muriel Mining Corporation (MMC) was taken to the Colombian Courts by indigenous and afro-colombian communities in Jiguamiandó, Chocó in 2009. The mining company failed to properly consult the communities affected by its Mandé Norte copper-gold-molybdenum exploration project. The British-Australian multinational Rio Tinto is also a partner in the project.

After reaching the constitutional court, it ruled (1) that in the case of large-scale development or investment with a major impact on indigenous territories, their free, informed and prior consent must be obtained, in accordance with their customs and traditions. (http://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/relatoria/2009/T-769-09.htm). The free, prior and informed consultation process under the ILO Convention 169 – ratified by Colombia on August 1991 – had not been carried out adequately.

Unwilling to accept this decision, MMC and the Interior and Justice Ministry (Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia) requested on behalf of the Colombian government that the court’s judgment may be revoked. On 9 March 2012 the court rejected both appeals to nullify its decision upholding the rights of the indigenous and afro-descendents of Jiguamiandó.

The community's voice has to be accepted

In 2009, the indigenous and afro-descendent communities of Jiguamiandó, organised an internal consultation (Consulta Interétnica de los Pueblos). It involved 77 percent of the communities directly affected by the mine (1,183 people), and 100 percent rejected exploration and exploitation by MMC in their ancestral territories. 

(1) In decision T-769/2009, 29 October 2009 

More information: http://www.abcolombia.org.uk/subpage.asp?subid=463&mainid=23#.T74UGcWrSHz