Colombia mining raises human rights concerns

UK-listed companies that invest in Colombian mines could inadvertently be complicit in human rights violations, a report has warned.

The report has been compiled by ABColombia, an advocacy organisation funded by Scottish Catholic development agency SCIAF.

The Colombian government is seeking to expand foreign direct investment in the mining sector but ABColombia warns that the move could lead to more human rights violations, environmental damage and lost tax revenues.

It warns that indigenous and Afro-Colombian people are receiving little to no support from the state as they try to protect their land and livelihoods from multinational corporations.

The report's author, ABColombia's Programme and Advocacy Manager Louise Winstanley said: "Colombia is a country where human rights have been abused for the last 50 years.

"Disputes over land have been at the heart of this conflict, and millions of people have been forced to flee or have been forcibly moved off their ancestral land."

She warns that UK-listed companies could find themselves complicit in the legalisation of land stolen from these communities.

"UK companies starting to invest in the Colombian mining sector face reputational risks through inadvertent complicity in human rights abuses unless they take direct responsibility for ensuring that the rights of local people where they intend to mine have been upheld," she said.

"Companies currently mining in Colombia also appear to be exploiting weak governmental institutions to make even higher profits through tax evasion."

SCIAF is working with Cuba's indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities to establish legal rights of land ownership, return to their land when previously evicted, and grow food and earn a living.

Mark Camburn, SCIAF's Programme Officer for Latin America and Haiti recently returned from Colombia and said: "The equivalent of the population of Scotland, 5.2 million people, has been forcibly evicted from their land or has fled organised violence over many years in Colombia.

"We are extremely concerned about the growing impact of mining on these vulnerable communities as they have already suffered so much.

"UK-listed companies must be extremely careful that their drive for profit does not add to the further abuse of human rights of the long-suffering people of Colombia."