Applications for mining titles in Colombia will include stricter environmental considerations
“This is one of eight orders issued by the High Court following a popular initiative which denounced the violation of collective rights to enjoy a healthy environment, the existence of an ecological balance, the rational management and use of natural resources, the conservation of animal and plant species, the protection of areas of particular ecological importance and the defense of public heritage,” the court said in a press release.
According to the Council of State, these rights have been violated due to the institutional disarticulation between the mining and environmental sectors, which has been stimulated by a lack of information and mining and environmental planning throughout the country. Shortcomings in the way mining concessions are controlled were also reported as problems affecting the proper application of mining regulations.
The tribunal’s decision was issued following a complaint filed by eight organizations and 30 individual citizens, who presented evidence showing a number of shortcomings in the current process for evaluating proposals and inspecting mining titles. . According to the plaintiffs, such weak points could lead to actions that would irreversibly affect the environment.
Following the decision, the ministries of environment and mines, as well as the relevant agencies, will have to carry out a study which involves an in-depth assessment of:
- Mining projects whose titles overlap protected areas
- The environmental impacts of exploration projects whose environmental licenses are being processed but have not been approved
- Unsupervised mining projects in the exploration phase
“Once this characterization has been carried out, departments must make an inventory of mining environmental liabilities and implement preventive and corrective measures for these problems,” the judgment states. “Some of the measures should be implemented in the short term (one year), some in the medium term (two years) and some in the long term (five years).”
Ministries were also urged to formulate new bills and regulations aimed at filling the gaps in the mining title assessment procedure; legal mechanisms for preserving biodiversity; the process of extracting resources from protected ecosystems; regulations relating to environmental liabilities and the possibility of requiring an environmental license during the exploration phase.
The ministries have also been ordered to update their guides and mining-environmental specifications, to adapt them to the provisions of article 19 of law 1753 of 2015.
“To present and execute specific actions aimed at improving relations between the mining and environmental sectors, the Ministries of Environment and Mines must also set up an inter-institutional working group that involves delegates from regional autonomous companies, Sustainable Development, National Environmental Licensing Authority, Major Urban Centers, National Parks of Colombia, ANM, Government of Antioquia, Attorney General’s Office and Comptroller General’s Office,” says the court decision.