The Colombian government announced on Monday initial agreements to combat illegal mining in Cauca province, four days after Afro-Colombian women from the region took over the Interior Ministry to protest illegal mining operations in their communities.
In recent years, there has been an increase in illegal gold mining in Cauca, which is controlled by gangs and guerrilla fighters. Protester Marilyn Mancilla said that she and other demonstrators were protesting the “over 200 backhoe excavators that are damaging our land, the mines that are contaminating our rivers with cyanide and mercury, and the death threats against leaders that denounce this.”
Last week, over 100 women walked from Cauca province in southwestern Colombia to the Interior Ministry in Bogotá, a distance of approximately 400 kilometers (about 250 miles). On November 27, 22 women locked themselves in a room in the Interior Ministry and refused to leave until the government addressed their concerns about illegal mining and guaranteed their protection.
Yesterday, the government announced that it will “take actions” to end illegal mining, including the creation of a subcommittee to evaluate immediate measures that can be put in place. The national ombudsman’s office, the Catholic Church and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will act as guarantors, along with various senators and representatives from Indigenous groups.