News Release

Organizations ask the UN to Intervene in the Protection of the Santurbán Páramo, at Risk From Mining

Comité para la Defensa del Agua y el Páramo de Santurbán, CIEL, AIDA, MiningWatch Canada, SOMO

The undersigned organizations request that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Drinking Water and Sanitation, prepare a report on the case, visit the site and mediate for the Colombian State to take the necessary actions to protect the ecosystem, an important source of water for millions of people, from the dangers of mining.

(Bucaramanga, Colombia) Civil society organizations sent a communique to Léo Heller, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Drinking Water and Sanitation in Colombia. In it they warn that both rights are in serious risk in the face of the intention of implementing harmful mining projects in or near the páramo, a water source for more than 10 municipalities and 3 principle cities. They request that the Rapporteur prepare a report on the case, visit the site, and mediate so that the Colombian government protects that ecosystem.

Actions and omissions by the Colombian government have allowed the advance of mining projects that threaten the availability and quality of water provided by the páramo. The delimitation of the site did not include the entire ecosystem, leaving a part of it unprotected, and did not count on citizen participation for what the Constitutional Court ordered to be done again.

The document details the process of delimitation of Santurbán, the importance of that process for the environment and the enjoyment of the right to water in Colombia, the legal framework for the protection of the páramos in the country, the development of projects in or near the site, as well as the associated environmental impacts or threats which include: decrease in the quality and quantity of water, contamination due to the use of explosives, decrease in air quality, increase in noise level and permanent loss of habitats, among others.

Likewise, the impact of International Investment Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration on the decisions of governments to protect their water sources is reported. Several mining companies have tried for more than 15 years to extract gold from the páramo of Santurbán, a fragile and strategic ecosystem that provides water to millions of people in Colombia. Some of those companies are Canadian and are currently seeking compensation for exorbitant sums of money through this arbitration process against the Colombian government. 

The organizations ask the Rapporteur to monitor the situation in the Santurbán páramo and urge the Colombian State to comply with its international obligations in relation to the right to water.

The link to the submission to the Rapporteur is attached here in Spanish.