Colombia is in the midst of a mining boom, with high commodities prices and Chinese demand placing its nascent mining sector at the center of the country’s economic development model. The challenge for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is to capitalize on the sector’s promise, while avoiding some of the environmental and social challenges that have impacted other South American mining countries, such as Chile and Peru.
These challenges are particularly salient for newcomers like Colombia, whose mining sector is slowly taking off. Excluding oil, mining now accounts for 30 percent of the country’s foreign investment and 24 percent of exports. Colombia is already the world’s 10th-largest coal producer and fourth-largest exporter. Santos’ government has identified the country’s mining sector as a driver of economic growth and is racing to get an institutional framework into place in order to ensure the industry is regulated, monitored, and boosts economic development across the country. Yet a number of challenges remain for both private business and the government, not least being widespread illicit mining, particularly gold.
What’s promising is that Colombia is making genuine efforts to ensure mining is as sustainable as possible, and is willing to learn from successful mining nations on how to best protect the environment, ensure that workers are well-trained, and guarantee that companies abide by health and safety standards.
In Colombia, environmental protection has been one of the most convincing arguments against mining. The industry’s environmental drawbacks are now well recognized and documented, and coal mining is a particularly dirty business. Unlike more established nations in the developed world, and even its South American mining neighbors, Chile and Peru, Colombia already has a plethora of knowledgeable, well-organized environmental groups, not to mention a strong presence of international civil society organizations, advocating for a sustainable approach.
Complete article via World Politics Review.