US Mining Multinational Accused of Destroying Indigenous Lands

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 22 January 2009

Indigenous people in the Colombian region of Antioquia have accused a US mining company of destroying their lands and the environment, carrying out illegal prospecting work in indigenous reserves and ignoring the concerns of local communities. The Muriel Mining Corporation, which is based in Colorado, denies the accusations and says that they have consulted with local indigenous leaders and have written proof to show it. The proof, say indigenous and community leaders, is fraudulent and has been obtained by the Corporation using dubious means.

According to reports from the region, Muriel began moving heavy machinery into indigenous territories in mid-December and since then the company has cleared large areas of rainforest in order to build a heliport and establish mining camps and other facilities. Of most concern to the local people is the work that Muriel is carrying out on and around the mountain of Careperro, which is considered a sacred site by indigenous people. Large numbers of soldiers have also arrived in the region to protect Muriel's facilities, equipment and staff.

The Embera people who inhabit the area say that there has been no consultation with local people and that they fear the mining will pollute rivers and destroy the biodiversity of the region. They point out that as the water is vital to their survival, the people living there will have to leave their lands, despite being on protected reserves, if the rivers become polluted.

Over 600 indigenous people have set up a protest camp near the Careperro mountain to draw attention to what is happening though a January 21st statement put out by regional indigenous groups says that the Army is harassing those at the camp and stealing their food. This has apparently caused malnutrition and one 5-year-old child has allegedly died of starvation.

The company claims that they have letters of authorisation from local indigenous people to carry out exploration and prospecting on the land though leaders of the communities say that these were obtained in return for bribes of money, food and alcohol and that those who signed the letters to not have the authority to do so and have ignored traditional Embera collective decision making processes. The January 21st statement also complains that the Army are collaborating with paramilitary death squads in the region which is creating a climate of fear and that soldiers turned back a delegation of indigenous leaders who attempted to visit and meet with managers of Muriel.

The indigenous reserves being affected by Muriel's mining activities include Careperro, Murindó, Turriquitadó, Coredó, Citaguarodó, Guaguas, Coredocito and Jiguamiandó all of which are in or around the municipalities of Murindo and Mututa – an area known collectively as the Bajo Atrato. According to reports from Muriel the area is likely to hold rich deposits of gold, copper and molybdenum.

Two US investigators, David Goodner and Megan Felt, recently investigated Muriel and found the following:

"Muriel Mining Corporation is a very mysterious company with a seemingly bad reputation when it comes to human rights. When looking for Muriel on the internet you get a lot of hits, but all are websites mentioning Muriel Mining, the company itself doesn't seem to have a website of its own.

"According to the Colombia Support Network, the company is from Colorado, but browsing through the yellow pages leaves you nowhere. No address, no phone number, nothing. The company is mentioned on the Portfolio website, a Colombian economic magazine, which says its office is in Medellín. No phone number in the Medellín yellow pages though.

"When Googling the company, the only thing you find is a continuous row of accusations of human rights organizations of the company financing paramilitary groups, torture, responsibility in the murder of 85 people in Urabá in the 1990's, etc.

"It seems the only time Muriel Mining seems to do business is when there's some exploitation to be done and locals need to be shut up."

If you would like to protest to the company about their activities in Colombia, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Muriel is Mr Andy Robertson on

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