Friday the 25th of february saw protests in several Colombian cities against the 'Angostura' project of Canadian mining junior Greystar Resources, which is planned in the 'páramo Santurbán', wetlands located in the north of the country on the border of Santander and Norte de Santander departments.
The project's use of cyanide to extract gold could affect the fragile wetlands ecosystem and put in danger the drinking-water of 2 million people in the region.
Bucaramanga, the biggest city that would be affected, saw between 30 and 40 thousand protesters take to the streets to demand of the environmental ministry it deny the permit that would allow Greystar to start the exploitation phase of the gold mine. A diverse crowd of environmental activists, students, teachers and unions marched from two different locations to converge on the seat of local government, where they made their dissent heard, chanting slogans in favour of the protecting water sources and against the Angostura project.
Also in the capital Bogota, some thousand demonstrators showed their solidarity with people in Santander, marching to the offices of the Ministry of Environment where they held a 3 hour sit-in. Local actors and artists, who have added their voice to the opposition to the project, recited poems and chanted slogans that left no-one in doubt inside the ministry: 'Water is our real Dorado' (*) and 'water comes from the páramo, not the tap'. People flocked to sign the petition that demands the ministry deny the environment permit, which already had collected over 6000 signatures.
On the 4th of march a public hearing will be held in Bucaramanga, where the company will have a last opportunity to try to convince locals that the gold mining project will not affect ecosystems and water supplies of the region. the ministry of environment then has two weeks two make up it's mind.
If the Angstura project does get a permit to operate, it will be the first project of this type and magnitude, opening the possibility for exploitation of other open-pit mining projects in Colombia, such as the 'La Colosa' project of Anglogold Ashanti.
(*) El Dorado is the legend about a golden city that captivated spanish conquistadores on their arrival, which stems from rituals of the local Muisca indigenous people, now extinct.