Mining sector grows despite the threat of legal uncertainty (Mining Congress Balance)

Mining sector grows despite the threat of legal uncertainty (Mining Congress Balance)

During the installation of the third National Congress of Mining, this Thursday in Cartagena, spokespersons of the sector expressed that the mining locomotive was reactivated, but they demanded conditions that allow the investment to return to the upward pace.

That the mining sector has grown for 2016% 4.7% despite the threats facing that line of the economy, such as legal uncertainty and widespread negative perception of its work, it makes the industry think that the so-called mining locomotive has again taken the rails, as the figure corresponds to the second largest after the financial sector in a year in which the economy in general barely grew 2% and in which the Hydrocarbon sector had a contraction of 11.1%.


With this background reality was installed this Thursday at the Hilton Hotel in Cartagena the third National Congress of Mining, discussion space in which, in addition to the entrepreneurs, the Academy, the government and the legislative branch are also quoted to discuss the present and the future of an industry which, in addition, grew by 8% its exports the previous year , when, in general, the same fell 13% in Colombia.
Although the illegal extraction of minerals and the changing legal environment for investors are the central topics of debate that will be extended until this Friday, the industry summit will also address the proposal for reform of the royalty regime, the environmental vision of mining, the prospects for mining development in Colombia and the challenges of mining competitiveness, all framed in the implementation of the Havana agreements , specifically point 1 of integral rural reform, which, according to the Minister of the field, Germán Arce Zapata, “is not only agricultural” but “goes by having clear rules on how to define the territorial development model”, because mining is able to “coexist with other economic activities”.
“We have the opportunity to return to rail the mining locomotive,” to generate the conditions of competitiveness, the clear rules of play that allow us to continue cotribuiting to the country at this moment of post-conflict, said, for his part, Roberto Junguito, president of the Board of Directors of the Colombian Association of Mining and President of Cerrejón.
Fast Track, an opportunity
The President of the Colombian Mining Association, Santiago Ángel Urdinola, noted that the extraordinary mechanism for the implementation of the peace agreements can constitute a tool to generate opportunities for mining, through this mechanism, many of the doubts that have left the frequent failures of the Constitutional Court that have led to transform the legal environment of the activity could be cleared up.
Ángel Urdinola recalled that the court has failed numerous guardianship actions against the industry which “has made the investment difficult.”
“Half of the mining standards have been declared unconstitutional,” not only the mine code but the articles of the development plan that they played with mining, “he explained and added that, on account of some of these failures,” the mining lawyers have specialized in territorial ordering because day by day we feel threatened by popular consultations “.
In fact, he explained, there are currently 39 municipalities preparing popular consultations, a situation that needs a solution from the land management plans. “We must discuss the mining component of the pot;” 90% of the municipalities do not have the mining component considered, he emphasized.
Ángel Urdinola lamented that in “The age of disinformation is not recognized the contribution that the mining makes to the country” but it is still thought that this activity is the biggest pollutant and the biggest threat to the water.
In that sense, it was desirous that before 20 June the law should be discussed to impose drastic penalties on those who practise illegal extraction of minerals. “It’s not fair that 30% of the country is contaminated with this cancer.” It’s a chore we can’t let go of, “he said.” Finally, he calls to judicialice “any social protests that comes with violence” because, he said, a trillion pesos have cost the mining industry blockades to activity in different parts of the country.
The Constitutional Court is legislating (and should not)
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Germán Arce Zapata, during the installation of the National Mining Congress, noted in his speech that the decisions of the court that declared unprocedent several articles of the mining code, “left us in a more serious scenario: there are many rules and we do not know what the rule is.” “We fill loopholes at the tip of decrees.”
The director of the mine portfolio added that many of the sector’s current problems, in terms of regulation, come from “not having ruled the constitution of 1991;” There were principles that for 25 years were left open to interpretation. “Winds changed course and interpretations too.”
And he added, “The court is breaking a golden rule by legislating.” “The court is legislating and the laws are made in Congress.”
Arce Zapata recalled that the mining sector and the government are working on a bill to resolve the differences between the capacity of the State to administer the natural resource and the competence of the territorial entities.
“Six thousand people cannot decide on 50 million, that is the proposal of the project we are working on and is included in the implementation of the agreements, since it is part of point 1 of the Comprehensive Rural Development Agreement”.
Regarding popular consultations, Arce Zapata recalled that they have not been summoned only against mining activity but also against infrastructure projects. “Consultations are instruments of citizen participation, legitimate, legal, where communities, within the framework of the law, can pronounce on local aspects of their activity;” But the discussion we are giving is a bit bigger, and we have a resource that is for the use of all Colombians and we need to understand the extent of these local manifestations versus the interests of 50 million Colombians whose rights are based on that activity, he explained.
Separate mining from illegal practice
For theMinister Germán Arce, the problem of the negative perception of the activity lies in that there is no clear separation, perhaps by ignorance, of illegal extraction and of the mining industry.
The so-called “illegal mining” does not pay taxes, does not pay royalties, does not ask permission, does not fill out a form, does not go to the Dian, does not go to the environmental authority. “That’s why it’s so important to be able to separate those two activities.”
“We have approved activities that are done with a mining degree, with an environmental permit;” If a company with a mining degree does not agree to an environmental license, the resource cannot be exploited. Period. The only way to do that is to comply with those requirements of law, the minister added and emphasized that “the big problem is that if we don’t give way to the legal actors,” with the knowledge that the resource is there, the illegal actors are going to have fun as they are doing in some regions of the country and that is a criminal problem that must be attacked with public prosecutor and the presence of the force.
In this sense, he explained that the bill in Congress creates a criminal type that typifies the entire chain of criminal activities: today these are environmental crimes, releaseable, then take a guy with a dredger and take it for a weekend to feed him at the police station, but it is not a penal type. “Then it is time to start by defining the penal type to be able to attack, so that it can be prosecute, so that we can fight against this activity.”
He finally indicated that the local authorities “should be raising the alerts of how the dredges arrive that we are finding in the middle of the jungles of Chocó or Nariño of Cauca” and not “to become the ones of the blind sight.”

Originally posted in El Mundo, written by  Javier Restrepo Gonzalez

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