Colombia's Senate rejected a bill that sought to include a constitutional prohibition on mining exploitation and exploration in high Andean wetlands or "paramos."
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The main arguments focused on the exclusion of paramos' surrounding areas where mega-mining companies could continue extractive activities.
At least 36 wasteland ecosystems generate 85 percent of Colombia's potable water and the main water tributaries.
"The bill only delimits the zones in which exploration and exploitation activities could be carried out. It leaves other important areas out, such as watersheds," Senator Armando Benedetti said.
Calling for a hearing with the Environment Ministry to obtain technical definitions, several lawmakers agreed that wasteland ecosystems are difficult to demarcate. They mentioned the strategic high Andean forests, which were not included within the prohibition.
"The productive activities currently being developed in these high Andean forest zones may be maintained. That is to say, the bill intended to guarantee in the Constitution not the rights of the paramo, nor life, nor of these ecosystems, but the rights of the mining companies," Senator Roy Barreras warned.
Last December, the United Nations Organization against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that over 60 percent of alluvial gold mining in Colombia was of non-legal operation nature. At least 52 percent of illegal activities were conducted in sensitive environmental areas excluded from mining.