Summary: World Bank divests from company engaged in controversial Colombian mining project

20th December 2016: The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has decided to divest from Canadian mining company Eco Oro Minerals over the company’s pursuit of a controversial mining project in Colombia. SRT grantees the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), Mining Watch Canada and SOMO provided support to local activists in the case.

Eco Oro’s Angostura gold mining project is located in the Santurbán Páramo, an ecosystem of high-altitude wetlands that provides water to millions of people in Colombia and shelters hundreds of threatened species. Colombian law prohibits mining in the páramos, but 24 percent of the Santurbán region remains unprotected because it has not been officially designated a páramo.

The IFC made its decision after the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, an independent accountability mechanism of the World Bank, published a report concluding that the IFC’s investment did not adequately consider the environmental and social impacts of the Angostura project. In 2012 local campaigning group the Committee for the Defense of Water and the Páramo de Santurbán, with support from organisations including the SRT grantees listed above, presented a complaint to the Ombudsman which led to the report. IFC’s decision was also shaped by intense public opposition, led by the grantees, to Eco Oro’s plan to sue Colombia under a bilateral investment treaty.

Carlos Lozano Acosta of AIDA said, “IFC’s divestment is a strong political and financial strike against mining in the Santurbán páramo. The Colombian government must reflect on its permissive attitude toward large-scale mining in the páramo, which is illegal.”

Carla Garcia Zendejas of CIEL said, “After intense public pressure, the IFC has finally got the message and by divesting, amplifies it further. The decision to divest strengthens the Colombian State’s duty to protect water and regulate in the public interest. We applaud this decision by the IFC, which will have repercussions for all Colombians.”

Full press release from CIEL’s website:

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