Colombian Constitutional Court withdraws licenses for coal extraction in the Andean Region

A significant achievement for the people of Colombia: The Colombian Constitutional Court has withdrawn all 347 mining licenses for coal in the Colombian area of Páramo, a region in the Andes. The Páramo lies at an altitude between 3200-4800 meters with low temperatures between trees and snowline.1 Approximately 70 percent of all the water flowing through the Andes flows through the Páramo, which explains the significance of this region to the country’s drinking water supply.  Mining in this region threatens the fragile ecosystem and the water quality.2

The activity of the local population against the licensing of coal mining in the region, which was led by four parliamentarians, lawyers and representatives of civil society organizations, is now paying off. More than 70,000 signatures calling for the protection of Páramo were collected. The Constitutional Court of the country has withdrawn all 347 mining licenses already issued, forcing the mining company Coal Hunza to retreat from the Páramo. This ruling now closes a legal loophole which permitted operations in rare ecosystems. The loophole appears in a law of June 2015, which prohibits agricultural and oil and gas activities, but allows mining activities for older projects in the Páramo.3

The decisions of the Colombian government and the Constitutional Court are undertaking a series of measures to meet social and environmental risks posed by mining activities in the country. It now applies a “zero tolerance policy” with respect to the mining of raw materials.4 The effects of the law are still not fully known, as it is not yet fully understood exactly how far the Páramo actually extends. Estimates range from 1.9 million to 2.9 million hectares from. So far, still the government decides on the exact scope of this region and, can accordingly also award mining licenses for coal and gas.3

It remains to be seen whether the companies concerned, for example Galway Gold Inc. will accept the decision of the Constitutional Court or decide to take legal action.5


  1. http://www.lateinamerika-studien.at/content/natur/natur/natur-1326.html, called on 03.30.2016 []
  2. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/colombia-bans-coal-mining-paramos-Andes/blog/55544/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_term=andes,Colombia,Coal, ecosystem,Mining,Paramos,water&utm_campaign=greenpeace &__surl__=IgSdb&__ots__=1455330085187&__step__=1, 2/12/2016, accessed on 30.03.2016 []
  3. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2016/feb/21/colombia-bans-oil-gas-mining-paramos, 2/21/2016, accessed on 30.03.2016 [] []
  4. http://www.mining.com/galway-gold-mulls-legal-escape-to-colombias-mining-ban-in-paramos/, 2/24/2016, accessed on 03.30.2016 []
  5. http://www.galwaygoldinc.com/s/NewsReleases.asp?ReportID=740484&_Type=News-Releases&_Title=Galway-Gold-Comments-on-Colombias-Constitutional-Court-Rescinding-Mining-Op., 2/24/2016, accessed on 30.03.2016 []