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Cajamarca peasants continue struggle against South Africa mining giant

Peasant communities in the Cajamarca valley, known as Colombia's "agricultural pantry", are fighting to defend the territory against South African mining giant Anglogold Ashanti and its La Colosa mine. This megaproject affects the peasants' right to food and jeopardizes access to water for several cities with millions of inhabitants.

The peasants have succeeded in suspending the mining operations temporarily, through a popular referendum, but the company still insists on laying siege to the territory. 

In 2023, AngloGold Ashanti relinquished two mining titles, which reduced the percentage of the concessioned territory but it still retains almost a fifth (17.9%) of the Cajamarca territory.  

Lawsuits filed by the company against the state in order to continue operating are still pending.  

In the UN's sights 

Grassroots organizations defending Cajamarca sent a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, who responded by contacting the Colombian State, to AngloGold Ashanti Colombia, to the State of South Africa and to AngloGold Ashanti South Africa 

In these communications the special rapporteur asked for information from the states and the company on the La Colosa case and emphasized the importance of protecting human rights and the right to participation. These submissions were jointly endorsed by several other UN special rapporteurs.

Diverting attention

This year, AngloGold Ashanti announced that its headquarters will move from Johannesburg to London and that its main listing will move from Johannesburg to New York.  

By leaving South Africa all progress in the company's auditing in that territory would be put on hold, and it would have to start again from scratch in London, where the company would have a clean record.

In addition, Sara Moreno, from Centro Siembra, a social organization dedicated to the defense of this territory, explains that "with a primary listing in New York, AngloGold Ashanti is seeking access to the world's largest gold capital fund. While mining companies carry out these operations to continue strengthening their projects, there are no effective and binding measures to ensure that they protect human rights in the territories where they operate". 

This case illustrates the urgent need for a UN binding treaty to hold transnational corporations to account. An effective UN binding treaty would help to protect people and the planet and focus on prevention, liability, access to remedy, international cooperation and implementation mechanisms, including in conflict affected areas thereby closing gaps in protection and regulation.

For more information or media interviews please contact Amanda Cordova Gonzales or Clara Roig Medina

Photo: Robinson Mejía