A small town in Colombia called Cajamarca just turned down a gold mine proposal worth $35 billion in favor of the environment. The residents rejected the idea in a public vote with a 98% majority.
AngloGold Ashanti, A South African company was preparing to build a mine named La Colosa which would be the largest gold mine in South America if it is built. The project was favored by the national government, and the company has already obtained the exploration license. The government is of the view that mining is vital to the country’s economy and a referendum was held in the town of Cajamarca where the mine is to be located. The residents turned it down with the concerns of environment and water pollution. BBC reported that the town has 19,000 residents of which only 76 voted for the mine while 6,100 were against it.
A 21-year student Camila Méndez commented, “I voted no for the future generations. I have two nephews of seven and three years old. Even though they do not live in Cajamarca, I know that I want them to enjoy the little I’ve been able to enjoy so far, as it concerns the countryside. If we win…we’d show the complete world that Cajamarca is able to defeat a huge multinational enterprise, a mining monster as AngloGold Ashanti.”
The results of the vote and the comments of the locals have raised the concerns for the Colombian Mining Minister German Arce who is very upset with the scenario. He also says that the voters had been misled by the campaigners. Since the company has already acquired an exploration license, the battle stands now between the local and the national government. The local government has the control of the land, but the underground riches are owned by the national government. Once the company obtains the environmental license, the decision of the courts or the country’s congress will be final.