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Toronto-based Continental Gold – developer of the giant Buriticá, Antioquia gold mine due for start-up in 2020 – announced December 2 that China-based Zijin Mining Group inked a C$1.4 billion/US$1 billion deal to buy 100% of Continental’s stock.

“The offer price represents a premium of 29% over Continental’s 20-day volume-weighted average price at November 29, 2019 on the Toronto Stock Exchange,” according to Continental.

Newmont Goldcorp and directors and officers of Continental collectively holding 21.5% of the outstanding Continental common shares also voted to support the Zijin buyout.

Fujian, China-based Zijin -- formed in 1993 -- specializes in gold, copper, zinc and other mineral resource exploration and development through investments in China and nine countries. Listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, as of November 29, 2019 Zijin had a market capitalization of approximately US$12.13 billion, according to the company.

Commenting on the deal, Continental CEO Ari Sussman said: “The all-cash offer at a significant premium to market is an excellent outcome for our shareholders and is a testament to the extraordinary effort of the Continental team and its stakeholders in pioneering a new and modern gold industry in Colombia.

“With [gold] production on the horizon in 2020, the timing is right for Continental to sell to a more experienced mine operator and therefore Continental’s board of directors recommends that shareholders vote in favor of the transaction.”

Zijin chairman Chen Jinghe added: “Continental’s 100%-owned Buriticá project in Antioquia, Colombia is one of the largest and highest-grade gold projects in the world and represents a highly complementary addition to Zijin’s international asset portfolio.

“The Buriticá project is expected to produce approximately 250,000 ounces of gold per annum on average over a 14-year mine life at life-of-mine all-in sustaining cost of ~US$600 per ounce. We believe the sizeable, high-grade mineral resource of 16.02 metric tonne [Mt] at an average gold grade of 10.32 g/t [grams per tonne] (being a measured resource of 1.40 Mt with a gold grade of 13.70 g/t and an indicated resource of 14.62 Mt with a gold grade of 10.00 g/t) presents excellent opportunities to expand production and extend mine life.

“Continental has successfully advanced and substantially de-risked the Buriticá project with commercial production now clearly in sight and first gold pour expected in the first half of 2020. Continental also holds a sizeable and highly prospective land package in Colombia that, combined with the Buriticá project, provides Zijin with the leading position in an emerging world-class gold producing region.

“Zijin is conscious of the demonstrated responsibility of Continental’s operation towards the well-being of the local communities and the responsible management of environmental aspects of its operation. Zijin will practice in all its operations the same commitment of Continental towards transparency and ethics and will continue to operate in a highly responsible manner in Buriticá, Antioquia and Colombia more broadly,” Jinghe concluded.


South Africa-based global mining giant AngloGold Ashanti on November 28 unveiled more details of its proposed "Quebradona" copper-gold mining project at Jerico, Antioquia -- including a novel "Biodynamic" nature park that would restore and improve the entire mining area, as part of its just-filed environmental impact assessment (EIA).

AngloGold first unveiled the scheme at the Colombia Gold Symposium (CGS) November 12 here in Medellin, where environmentally and socially responsible mining took front-and-center stage -- outshining even the usual presentations on geology, politics and legalities.

Why this scheme is so important: If the new, socially/environmentally responsible miners succeed in convincing a wider public, then Antioquia and Colombia could look forward to billions of dollars of new investments, big jumps in tax-and-royalty revenues, new jobs and business opportunities, infrastructure improvements, educational advancements, government fiscal solvency -- and even (amazingly) environmental progress.

The "Quebradona" project would become Colombia’s biggest copper-and-gold mine at pastoral Jerico, Antioquia – while actually improving the local environment via post-mining construction of a remarkable “Biodynamic” nature park.

The repercussions could be seen as almost biblical, as AngloGold potentially could become something like a 21st-century version of “Joshua” at the battle of Jerico -- where anti-mining walls could come tumbling down.

According to the company, "after a rigorous process that included more than 14 years of studies of the subsoil and on the social, economic and environmental characteristics of Jericho, Antioquia, AngloGold Ashanti began the process of filing the EIA with the environmental authorities of the departmental and national governments for the Quebradona copper mining project, with which the route to obtain the environmental license for the project begins.

"To construct the study, the company carried out exhaustive analysis and projections by 27 expert consultants in geology, hydrology, ecology, among other specialties. Also, between November 2018 and September 2019, AngloGold heard the concerns of more than 2,600 inhabitants of Jericho through 150 meetings, in order to raise solutions in the same document."

“The exhaustive analysis and dialogue with the community, together with the advanced technology that we plan to use in the project, allow us to have the certainty that the EIA not only integrates the components required by the authorities to ensure compliance with the technical specifications and social and environmental obligations of the project, but reflects high international standards of sustainable mining to ensure that it meets the purpose of converting the mineral wealth of the territory into social, economic and environmental progress,” added Felipe Márquez Robledo, president of AngloGold Ashanti Colombia.

In response to public concerns, AngloGold Ashanti integrated into the EIA a "gradual regeneration plan of 2,550 hectares of tropical dry forest and high mountain forest of Jericho," according to the company.

"The investment includes improving the connectivity of fauna and flora in the ecological corridor between the Cauca river, the escarpment area, the Piedras river, the Quebradona ravine basin, the integrated management district (Distrito de Manejo Integrado, DMI) of the Cuchilla-Jardín-Tamesis region, and the La Guamo ravine basin, in such a way that wildlife species recover mobility between ecosystems and increase native plant cover that will generate food and cover that can be used by birds in the region.

"The EIA also ratifies AngloGold Ashanti's commitment not to use the water that supplies the Jerico municipality. In the construction and operation [of the mining project], the company will use less than 1% of the [nearby] Cauca River water -- and recirculation [of that Cauca water] will be 80% in the process circuit," according to the company.

Worried environmentalists, some local farmers and some townspeople in Jerico have been fighting the proposed “Quebradona” mine for years, fearing potential water, air and noise pollution, ugly land subsidence and possible increases in local crime and prostitution. In addition, the politically powerful, Medellin-based "Comfama" social-benefits organization has expressed concerns that the new mine might cause undue pollution or other harm to its proposed "Ecoparque Turístico Los Farallones de La Pintada" ecopark nearby.

But the Colombian Constitutional Court recently ruled that local governments (including Jerico) can’t by themselves ban mining – although the Court also said that the national government ought to consult with local governments before issuing mining licenses and environmental permits. Colombia’s Congress is supposed to enact a new law defining this consultative scheme.

Meanwhile, two recent Antioquia court rulings have nullified prior Jerico ordinances that would have prohibited mining.

Just as significant, the newly elected Mayor of Jerico -- David Alonso Toro Cadavid – publicly announced that if the national government ultimately approves “Quebradona” licenses, then the local government will do everything it can to ensure an environmentally and socially responsible project.

AngloGold’s upcoming license application to Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (ANLA, the national environmental licensing agency) is expected to be filed within weeks, according to the company.

Prior to that filing, AngloGold’s “Quebradona” mining project manager Ingrid Suarez and AngloGold Colombia corporate affairs manager Juan Camilio Quintero unveiled to CGS 2019 a startling, English-language animated film showing how the mine would be built, operated, safely closed and then repurposed into an environmentally friendly, 2,548-hectares-wide biopark – without polluting water, land or air, or causing any disastrous surface subsidence.

Rather than just generating profits for AngloGold, the “Quebradona” project aims to generate “social wealth for Jerico, Antioquia and Colombia,” along with “environmental regeneration,” Quintero stated here.

Bonus: The company will put US$2.5 million/year into “Fundacion ProJerico” for social development schemes.

The project design includes avoidance of noise or air pollution -- partly by employing underground processing of extracted rock -- and putting tailings adjacent to an existing, non-native pine-tree plantation – all of which eventually will be replanted with native species and reconnected to biological corridors that previously have been ruined by local deforestation.

The project entails four years of construction, 24 years of productive mining, 10 years of closure work and construction of the “Biodynamic” park, which will include bird-watching towers, an educational laboratory to promote conservation and native species, solar and wind turbines for zero-emissions electric power, and restoration of tropical dry forest.

The “Quebradona” project is located about three kilometers from the Puente Iglesias bridge over the Cauca river, from which 0.25 cubic meters per second of water will be withdrawn for the mine processing works, according to Suarez.

Sediment ponds from mine extractions and processing will feature effluent treatments to ensure that water returning to the Cauca river will meet stringent environmental limits, according to the company.

Tailings will include filtration systems to ensure that any possible water migration to nearby streams wouldn’t be acidic, she said. Plugging of ventilation shafts will avoid water filtration through the mine post-closing. Other systems will be employed to minimize noise, dust and light pollution during the term of mine operations.


Medellin utilities giant EPM on November 29 relights 27 million LED bulbs for an annual Christmas-season spectacle in several city parks and neighborhoods, as well as light-show designs alongside Rio Medellin -- absent in recent years due to “Parques del Rio” construction.

The spectacle can be viewed daily from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. midnight, November 29 to January 6, 2020, according to EPM.  Galleries of photos showing light-show designs from multiple sites are available here: http://fotosgrupoepm.com/thumbnails.php?album=2302  and here: http://fotosgrupoepm.com/thumbnails.php?album=2281 .

Various light shows are installed in Parque Norte, Parques del Río, Avenida La Playa, Carrera 53, the Ayacucho Tram, the Bolívar Promenade, Carrera 70, Las Palmas avenue and more than a dozen outlying neighborhoods and towns.

Towns in Antioquia with EPM-organized light shows include Caracolí, Santo Domingo, Carolina del Príncipe, Dabeiba, Cocorná, Concordia, El Carmen de Atrato (Chocó), Girardota, Ituango, Tarazá, Caucasia, Cáceres, Nechí and Valdivia, according to EPM.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Colombia on November 28 issued an update on a joint USAID-Antioquia governmental program that is restoring 1,781 hectares of lands wrecked by criminal and illegal mining.

To date, the US$4 million project has planted 2 million trees on deforested lands and established 12,000 beehives for honey production in the same areas.

The “Legal Gold” project is benefiting the Antioquian municipalities of Caucasia, Cáceres, El Bagre and Zaragoza, supported by the departmental government of Antioquia, local mayors and private companies including Medellin-based, socially responsible gold miner Mineros SA.

“It is estimated that the illegal exploitation of gold in Bajo Cauca Antioqueño has caused the degradation of 32,000 hectares of land where it is not feasible to develop [conventional] economic activities that benefit the communities, which means that, in addition to the environmental liability, the lands have been become social liabilities,” according to USAID.

“In spite of this panorama, the union of efforts and inter-institutional resources is returning the life to about 8% of the total degraded area of the Lower Cauca Antioqueño through Acacia mangium plantations.

“This forest species, in addition to adapting to difficult soil conditions, enjoys accelerated growth, fixes nitrogen in the soil and produces abundant organic matter and floral and extra-floral nectar that serve as food for honey bees.

“After three years of the establishment of the projects, which linked families in the area of influence, the degraded, dusty and rocky soils [supported] plantation regrowth, and fauna returned to these territories."

The related beekeeping project -- which benefits 350 local families -- "is considered to be the largest that has been established in Colombia," USAID added.

“In these apiaries, 91 tons of honey have been harvested and an estimated production of 380 tons per year is estimated when the hives are at their maximum production peak.

“The recovery of soils degraded by illegal mining is undoubtedly replicable in other regions of the country and the world. This project improves the environmental conditions of the areas, generates rural employment and contributes to the reduction of poverty rates and improvement of the quality of life of the communities,” USAID added.


Medellin-based multinational electric power producer EPM announced November 27 an alliance with U.S.-based, global renewable-power developer Invenergy for at least 400 megawatts of solar- and wind-power generation capacity in Colombia.

The alliance will “invest, develop, build, operate and maintain unconventional renewable energy projects in Colombia, specifically with solar and wind technology,” according to a joint announcement from the new partners.

Under the deal, Invenergy will obtain financing with local and international banks, negotiate capacity in the purchase of equipment, contract with the project builders and “use its ability to transform projects into operational assets quickly,” according to EPM.

Thereafter, “EPM will have the option to purchase the [renewable energy] projects built within the framework of the alliance and will market 100% of the electric energy and emission reduction credits of the solar and wind plants,” according to the company.

EPM pioneered wind-power generation in Colombia with its “Jepírachi” project in Colombia’s Guajira region since 2004. More recently, EPM entered solar generation and “intends to continue contributing to the development of these technologies in the country,” according to the company.

For its part, Invenergy has developed more than 24,000 megawatts of capacity through 146 wind- and solar-power projects in the United States, Latin America, Japan and Europe. Among its projects: 96 wind farms with 14,914 megawatts capacity; 30 solar-power farms totaling 3,351 megawatts capacity; and 13 energy-storage units with 260 megawatts capacity, according to Invenergy.

At a press conference announcing the deal, Colombia Energy Minister María Fernanda Suárez stated that “alliances such as the one signed by EPM and Invenergy not only demonstrate the potential of renewable energies in Colombia, but also represent new opportunities for investment and employment for the benefit of the country and regions.”

For his part, Invenergy general manager Michael Polsky added that “our alliance with EPM represents a milestone for Invenergy as we enter the Colombian market and expand our presence in Latin America.”

According to the Energy Ministry, over the last 15 months Colombia's power-capacity auctions for incorporating future sources of renewable energy into its electricity matrix will boost capacity from less than 50 megawatts (what the city of Ibagué needs) currently to more than 2,200 megawatts of capacity by the year 2022 -- equivalent to the total power demand of Medellín, Cali, Cartagena and Bucaramanga combined.


Ireland-based global high-technology consultant Accenture reveals on November 29, 2019, the debut of Colombia’s first tech-demonstration “Nano Lab” -- at Medellin’s “Ruta N” technology incubation center.

“This space will immerse local customers in the latest emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, extended reality, quantum computing, robotics, cybersecurity, blockchain, among others, to help them understand how these innovations influence their future business operations,” according to Accenture.

“For example, an experience of connected mines shows how augmented reality allows users to visualize a complete mining operation with digital copies of physical assets, such as trucks and drills, running an analysis to provide data on the productivity of individual machines.

“A demonstration of the coffee supply chain shows how blockchain and smart contract technologies can be used to organize and provide transparency to the coffee value chain, recording how the beans change hands, are packaged, repackaged and how they are ground or are served,” the company added.

According to Accenture Colombia president Marco Ribas, “the Nano Lab of Accenture in Medellín offers a new way to bring innovation experiences to our customers in Colombia, allowing them to access the best innovations of Accenture Labs R&D teams worldwide.”

The Accenture global network includes an “ecosystem of allies that includes clients, startups, academic institutions and the public sector, which will join a global network of more than 50 laboratories and Nano Labs of Accenture,” according to the company.

The scheme includes artificial intelligence (AI) “process optimization and influence on strategic decision making” as well as “extended reality (XR) immersive technologies that create completely new ways for people to experience and connect with the world around them,” according to the company.

Other technologies arising in the network include “next-generation cybersecurity services to build resilience from the inside out” as well as "Internet of Things" (IoT) technologies that employ advanced sensors, robotics and machine learning, according to the company.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced November 26 that a May 28, 2019 landslide blocking the Medellin-Bolombolo highway near Amaga should be cleared by around March 2020.

The landslide wiped-out an under-construction section of the “Pacifico 1” four-lane divided highway as well as a stretch of the existing highway below it.

On a related front, ANI simultaneously announced that it signed a new deal with Instituto para el Desarrollo de Antioquia (IDEA, the Antioquian departmental development agency) to free-up about COP$11 billion (US$3.1 million) funding for upgrades to the current alternative route (Venecia-Bolombolo) -- while awaiting the reopening of the Amaga-Bolombolo segment of the Medellin-Bolombolo highway.

What’s more, ANI announced it’s helping to fund design work for a new bridge parallel to the existing bridge over the Cauca River at Bolombolo. The existing bridge has weakened in recent years -- and as a result cannot handle heavy truck loads as in prior years.

“By signing this agreement, the improvement of sections of the Venecia-Bolombolo highway will be advanced,” along with “rehabilitation of road corridors between Camilo C-El Cinco-Fredonia and between El Cinco-Venecia,” according to ANI.

“Likewise, resources will be allocated for the designs of the new Bolombolo bridge over the Cauca River, parallel to the existing one -- which will facilitate the transit of cargo vehicles. These investments will be executed by IDEA and will begin in the next few days,” according to ANI.

Meanwhile, the “Covipacifico” construction consortium responsible for building the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin and Bolombolo announced that it’s making steady progress in removing the landslide and installing new terraces, trenches, filters and canals to avoid future landslides.

“To date, the mitigation and adaptation plan has made significant progress,” according to Covipacifico.

“In the lower part of the landslide, work is also carried out on the adaptation of an industrial road, whose advances are already noticeable and allow the controlled passage of machinery required for the work. Once the security conditions improve, provisional restoration of [the existing highway] with restricted passage for traffic is projected.”

“To date we have developed work without major setbacks despite the rains that have occurred in the area during the last month,” added Covipacifico general manager Mauricio Millán Drews. “These advances allow us to be moderately optimistic with the estimated term of six months [that is, starting from October 2019]. We will continue working to guarantee the minimum security conditions until the recovery of provisional access,” he said.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s Transportation Minister Ángela María Orozco announced at a November 25 conference in Medellin that five “fourth generation” (4G) highway projects in Antioquia have now reached at least 40% completion.

“Among the projects, the ‘Vías del Nus’ corridor stands out, whose objective is to connect Medellín directly with the Port of Cartagena, as well as the north of the country and the northeast of Antioquia with the concession of Ruta del Sol, through Puerto Berrío,” according to ANI. “This concession will allow transporting products destined for export more easily and economically. This route records an advance of 48.91%."

As for the “Mar 1” highway connecting Medellin westward to Santa Fe de Antioquia, this project has already achieved a COP$2.23 trillion (US$638 million) financial close, while the “Mar 2” project (connecting with Mar 1) to new Atlantic ports likewise has won COP$652 billion (US$186 million) financial close, Orozco noted.

As for the “Pacifico 2” project connecting Bolombolo southward alongside the Cauca River to La Pintada, Antioquia, this project is due for completion by October 2020, she added.


Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM announced November 25 that its 2020 capital and operating budget will hit COP$17 trillion (US$4.9 billion).

“The budget authorized by the EPM board of directors responds to a rigorous planning exercise and includes resources for the attention of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, which in 2019 has reached important milestones in the protection of communities, care of the environment and technical recovery of this future power plant,” according to EPM.

“The budget also includes items for the expansion and replacement of electric power distribution networks and the development of aqueduct and sewage works in order to increase the coverage of services for citizens [as well as] maintain and/or improve their continuity and quality,” according to the company

The 2020 budget will be financed through three sources: cash-on-hand totaling COP$1.9 trillion/US$548 million (11%), current income from public services including electric power, natural gas, sanitation and drinking water, which in 2020 will total COP$9.8 trillion/US$2.8 billion (58%), and capital resources raised, which for next year will be COP$5.3 trillion/US$1.5 billion (31%).

“The capital resources raised include planned loan disbursements, compensation that is expected to be received from the insurer [Mapfre] for damages caused in the contingency of the Hidroituango hydroelectric project, and dividends that the company will receive from national and international subsidiaries,” according to EPM.

The EPM 2020 budget will be distributed as follows:

• Operating expenses: COP$5.9 trillion/US$1.7 billion (34%).
• Commercial operation expenses: COP$3.9 trillion/US$1.1 billion (23%).
• Investment expenses: COP$4.8 trillion/US$1.4 billlion (28%).
• Debt service: COP$1.8 trillion/US$520 million (11%).
• Cash availability: COP$600 billion/US$173 million) (4%).

EPM also aims to transfer part of its profit surpluses to the municipality of Medellín -- its sole shareholder -- totaling COP$1.3 trillion (US$375 million) during 2020.


In contrast to rock-throwing against police and vandalism to buildings and infrastructure in Bogota and Cali -- following otherwise peaceful, well-organized November 21 nationwide protest marches -- Medellin once again demonstrated to all Colombia that peaceful protest in a democracy effectively advances civil reform.

Immediately taking note of that was Colombia President Iván Duque Márquez, who publicly hailed marchers in Medellin and elsewhere for avoiding the mindless vandalism that broke out at the conclusion of otherwise peaceful marches.

Duque praised the peaceful protesters -- and promised multi-party negotiations to work out upcoming, potential reforms to pensions, employment-stimulation programs and other demands raised by marchers.

In contrast to the counter-productive vandalism in Bogota, some participants in the peaceful protest march in Medellin actually surrounded and stopped “encapuchados” (hooded vandals) from attacking buildings along the march route, as noted by both President Duque and Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez (see video here: https://twitter.com/i/status/1197615386520363019).

“What is better [anti-crime] control than that by citizens?” Gutierrez noted in a post-march tweet. “Congratulations and thanks to those who prevented vandalism. What great behavior! How proud we are for Medellin!”

In a nationwide address following the marches, President Duque stated: “Colombians spoke today. I will not get tired of saying it: we are a government that listens and builds.

“We understand that peaceful protest is legitimate in a democracy. And that throughout history there have been frustrations that we must resolve and that we have been attending.

“Today, despite the acts of violence, attributable to vandals that do not represent the spirit of Colombians, we show that this country can exercise individual freedoms without violating the freedoms of others.

“That is why I want to highlight the attitude of the citizens who rejected the vandals and made it clear that to express onself, one does not need to resort to violence.”

Just prior to the protest marches, Colombia’s Labor Minister Alicia Arango stated in a televised panel discussion that in contrast to false claims made by several organizers of the protest marches, “this government has never thought of lowering the minimum wage and even less so for young people.”

“There is not a single [government proposal] written on labor and pension reforms, and this is because if this possibility is analyzed, then it must go through the Labor Agreement Board,” which includes labor unions, employer organizations and government regulators, she added.

In contrast to fake news being spread by left-wing propagandists, Arango pointed out that the Duque administration is actually increasing subsidy payments to the poorest retirees in Colombia – a program created by the current administration since January 1, 2019.

As for creating more first-time job opportunities for young people, Arango pointed out that the Duque administration’s National Development Plan now allots 10% preference for new public-sector jobs for young people between 18 and 28 years old.

In addition, the Colombia minimum wage was boosted by 6% this year -- the largest hike in 25 years -- while the transport subsidy rose 10% for lower-income workers, the biggest increase in 14 years.

As for the state-run Colpensions pension fund (roughly similar to the U.S. Social Security system), in contrast to fake news claims, “Colpensiones will not be eliminated,” Arango said.

“On the contrary, it will be strengthened and become the central axis of economic protection for old age” added Colpensiones president Juan Miguel Villa, who participated with Arango in the public presentation.

 


In a November 12 keynote presentation to the fourth annual Colombia Gold Symposium (CGS) here in Medellin, CGS founder Paul Harris pointed to a recent study showing a drastic decline in mining concession contract applications in Antioquia – the heartland of Colombia gold mining.

According to the study by Colombia-based consultant Portex, the number of mining applications being signed into concession contracts in Antioquia fell from 669 in the 2004-to-2007 period, to 243 in 2008-2011, then 35 in the 2012-to-2015 period, and finally none at all in the 2015-to-2018 period.

Antioquia is the only department in all Colombia that has its own mining authority, Harris noted.

But the Portex study “has shown the delegated authority the regional government enjoys for contracting and supervision is not achieving the goals of decongestion, efficiency, efficacy and fomenting the development of mining and exploration,” as Harris explained in his recent column in the Colombia Gold Letter magazine.

The Portex study found that Antioquia state missed-out on COP$24 billion pesos (US$6.9 million) in government revenues as a result of concession applications not being advanced to signed contracts.

What’s more, another US$173 million per year in capex was lost here because mining companies – lacking concession contracts – didn’t invest in exploration here, Harris noted.

“Unfortunately, the amount of territory which is effectively frozen because concession applications were neither granted nor rejected grew 22.7% annually from 2001 to 2018 from a total of 8,399 hectares to 1,772,948 hectares,” Harris concluded in his report.

The Upside: Higher Quality Mining

On the other hand, positive mining developments are emerging in Antioquia specifically, Colombia generally and also in next-door neighbor Ecuador, Harris noted in his CGS presentation.

Two of these developments include the relatively huge Continental Gold project at Buritica, Antioquia (due for start-up in 2020), and the potential for a giant copper-gold mining project by AngloGold Ashanti in Jerico, Antioquia (see related reports in Medellin Herald, November 18, 2019).

Big new projects for gold and copper mining here are partly a commercial response to a global rebound in metals prices. But the new projects also are gathering strength because governments see metals-mining as a new source of tax-and-royalty revenues -- in the wake of sharp declines in global oil prices and the resulting drop-off in oil-tax revenues, he noted.

In Colombia alone, gold discoveries in recent years could represent a US$94 billion bonanza for government tax-and-royalty revenues, he said.

While some local communities have blocked mining because of environmental concerns -- and Colombian courts sometimes have intervened to hinder some projects -- mining companies also share some of the blame for relatively slow progress in moving projects to commercial operation, he said.

“There have been clumsy community relations efforts by mining companies,” Harris noted here. “People fear mining and don’t understand the benefits. Mining is particularly unloved.”

Some leading global mining execs echo that sentiment, as for example Barrick Gold’s CEO, who recently stated that the “social license” for mining is more pressing than most other issues.

In a related CGS presentation here, Silvana Habib, president of Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Mineria (ANM, the national mining agency), cited an urgent need for environmentally and socially responsible mining, which she dubbed “Mineria 4.0.”

Excessive government bureaucracy also has been partly to blame for slowing project development here, Habib conceded. Which is why ANM recently developed a “single application platform” for mining applications, employing a computerized system developed in Canada, one of the world’s top mining giants.

The new platform – incorporating both environmental and technical requirements -- can cut the former 325-days-long applications process to 90 days, a 72% reduction, she said.

Asociacion Colombiana de Mineria (ACM) trade-association president Juan Camilo Nariño added here in a separate presentation that mining is the single-largest contributor to health, education and infrastructure funding in Colombia.

While environmental advocates frequently assert that mining is a big threat, Colombia’s legal mining companies (as opposed to the criminal miners) are big spenders on environmental controls, much of which is required by government regulations, Nariño explained.

Future gold-and-copper mining projects could bring billions of dollars of investment and revenues for Colombia -- potentially boosting mining’s contribution to gross national product (“PIB” in Spanish initials) from 1.9% currently to 2.7% over the next decade, he added.

Consultant Warnings

While potential exists for more responsible mining development in Antioquia and Colombia, national elections last month also raise cautionary flags, as Bogota-based consultant Raul Gallegos of Control Risks warned here.

A recent rise of populist governments in Latin America is having a knock-on impact on Colombia as well, even though moderate conservative Ivan Duque handily won last year’s presidential election here.

In addition, Antioquia just elected a relatively mining-friendly governor (Anibal Gaviria) -- and recent Antioquian court rulings indicate relative tolerance to mining projects here, he added.

Still, some mining projects in Colombia likely will continue to face several legal challenges, protests and (sometimes) violent clashes -- with many politicians “deferring to [anti-mining] activists,” he warned.

Any company that attempts to steer-around such opposition by allying with corrupt politicians could face disastrous damage to corporate reputation, he added.

In a related presentation here, Colombia Risk Analysis consultant Sergio Guzman pointed to recent violent citizen protests in Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia – along with a leftward political U-turn in Argentina – as a possible opportunity for Colombia to attract investors fleeing from chaos elsewhere.

Colombia’s recent elections indicate that more voters are moving away from left- or right-leaning parties, in favor of more-centrist leaders focused upon concrete results rather than political posturing.

As a result, President Duque “needs to reach out to independents and other parties” in order to ensure that socially and environmentally responsible projects, reforms and policies will indeed move forward.

If political stability and moderation indeed gather steam, then “mining will be key driver of the Colombia economy over the next few years,” Guzman added.

Concluding the CGS agenda, Colombia’s top environmental scientist Brigitte Baptiste (former director of Instituto Humboldt) recounted the many social, political and environmental challenges facing miners not only here in Colombia but world-wide.

But even with those challenges, Baptiste added that “mining can be part of many sustainable activities” -- and it has vastly less negative global impact than deforestation for cattle ranching and agriculture.

To respond to criticism from environmentalists and other concerned citizens, “you have to be more detailed with your answers today,” in an era cluttered with sensationalist fake news and purely ideological opposition to mining, she explained.

While many environmental groups find the idea of negotiating with mining developers and government regulators “not acceptable,” such dialogue is the “only way to achieve a balance of interests and economic development for the country,” she said.

Combining new mining projects with environmental offsets such as bioparks, private reserves, municipal and regional planning initiatives, new ecotourism reserves and better mining practices are among the options for achieving such balance, she said.

“We need to legalize [responsible] mining and get rid of illegal mining,” Baptiste concluded.


Page 5 of 48

About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago

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