A small Colombian town just rejected a $35 billion gold mine project, placing people and the Earth ahead of earnings. Approximately 98 percent of the residents in Cajamarca said no to this mine as a result of concerns on the environment and water contamination and Mining Minister German Arce does not seem too pleased with the results.
South African company AngloGold Ashanti aimed to build the gold mine, called La Colosa, in Central Colombia, and it could have become the largest gold mine in South America. The national government was in favor of La Colosa, saying mining is vital as they recover from war with Marxist rebels.
But residents of Cajamarca, in which the mine could be located, reluctantly rejected the project in a recent referendum. According to the BBC, 19,000 individuals reside in the town, and just 76 locals voted in favor of this gold mine while 6,100 voted.
Neighborhood 21-year-old pupil Camila Méndez advised Mongabay before the results were in, “I voted no for the future generations. 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.”
However, Arce said campaigners misled voters. He explained AngloGold Ashanti had been issued an investigation license, and that permit would stay valid. Local authorities may control the property, but Arce stated the national government controls some underground wealth.
AngloGold Ashanti still needs an environmental license, and if this is granted Arce said it would be up to the courts or the country’s Congress to decide if national or local authorities would win the fight. Locals fear that the mine will harm the mountain environment of the region, or pollute water resources.