The Embera indigenous peoples and the Afro-Colombian community of Jiguamiando are trying to protect their land, the environment and their cultural and spiritual heritage in a region of Colombia known for its rich bio-diversity, which is currently under threat from a planned mining project.
The exploration for the Mande Norte project in the Departments of Choco and Antioquia is being carried out by Muriel Mining Corporation (recently bought-out by Sunward Investments Inc.).
The British registered mining company Rio Tinto has an 80% option for a joint venture and has been essential in bankrolling the exploration stage of the project.
The Colombian NGO the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission filed a lawsuit on behalf of communities affected by these plans, to stop the project; this was supported by a decision of the Colombian Constitutional Court in favour of the communities. This decision established a key precedent regarding the right of indigenous and tribal communities to free, prior and informed consent.
However, the Court’s decision has subsequently been appealed by the Muriel Mining Corporation and various government departments.
In July this year, the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) submitted an amicus curiae (Court Brief) supporting the position of the Constitutional Court.