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Digging too deep

Greed and disregard for the impact of their actions are causing executives to deal irreparable harm to delicate lands. UK’s Colombia Solidarity Campaign has set a day of action for October 19.

In many countries exploitation of the native peoples by foreign corporate interests is an unfortunate fact of life, and nowhere is this truer than in South America.

In order to obtain money, whether for themselves or for the benefit of their people, governments in small Latin American nations often have little choice but to bow to the pressures put on them by big companies to open their borders and give up their land to all kinds of development and use that may not have originally been intended.

While farming and agricultural giants make up a large portion of the corporate pie, the most dangerous and destructive business interests in South America are industrial mining companies.

These corporations are focused on obtaining results and profit, regardless of the damage they cause to both the environment and native peoples. Destructive construction methods often cause deforestation, soil erosion, poorer quality of water and air, loss of biodiversity and forced relocation of settlements in the path of bulldozers.

Such practices are thought to highly contribute to phenomena like acid rain, climate change, pollution and other environmental degradation.

Possibly the most important issue, however, is that of water quality. Many native communities depend on uncontaminated sources of water for survival; using it for drinking, fishing, farming and sanitation.

This is thrown into jeopardy due to invasive mining practices including the use of the deadly chemical cyanide in gold mining along with other toxic substances. Acid mine drainage, or water from a mine that runs out contaminated with these chemicals, can poison local water supplies and threaten the stability of entire regions.

The companies often do not offer any kind of compensation to locals for their overuse of water supplies or the subsequent pollution.

Social mobilization sometimes results in delays and investigation of mine owners, but such situations rarely result in favorable outcomes for locals and companies for the most part can get off scot-free.

The problem has recently come to a head in Colombia, at a site called La Colosa in the Tolima province, situated in Colombia’s fertile and green heartland. Company owners initially promised the mine would not exceed 700 hectares of land; as of the current day the site has expanded to devastate nearly 26,000 hectares of high mountain ecosystems.

To protest the exploitation of their land by mining giants, the residents of Tolima and their supporters in the UK are calling for a day of demonstrations for water, life and sovereignty and for exploited peoples everywhere to stand up to corporations that are thoughtlessly decimating virgin ancestral lands.

The plan is backed by the UK’s Colombia Solidarity Campaign, dedicated to fighting for the rights of oppressed local populations in Colombia, Peru and other Latin American nations.

The day of action is set for October 19, beginning at 9.30 am.

For more information, visit www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk.

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