BOGOTA – Colombia’s government said it would comply with a Constitutional Court ruling that bans all mining activities in the Andean nation’s “paramo,” or alpine tundra, regions.
“We receive this decision with the utmost respect and will obviously abide by it,” Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Gabriel Vallejo said Tuesday.
The high court ruled that Paragraph 1, Article 173 of the 2014-2018 National Development Plan, approved in 2014, was unconstitutional.
That paragraph had made an exception to a 2011 ban on mining in the paramo, stating that exploration and development of non-renewable resources and mining were permissible as long as the environmental licenses for those activities had been issued prior to Feb. 9, 2010, and June 16, 2011, respectively.
Paramos are intertropical alpine ecosystems where shrub land predominates and which are located more than 3,000 meters (9,835 feet) above sea level.
These high-altitude regions are the source of most of the water that Colombians consume.
The Constitutional Court ruled Monday in favor of a challenge brought by the leftist opposition Alternative Democratic Pole, or PDA, party against several articles in the National Development Plan, one of President Juan Manuel Santos’ flagship programs.
It found that Colombians’ right to a healthy environment overrode rights acquired through environmental licenses.
Greenpeace’s spokeswoman in Colombia, Silvia Gomez, told EFE that the environmental watchdog had backed the PDA’s lawsuit, saying that that paragraph of the National Development Plan had favored mining over paramo conservation.
“I think it’s really a reconquest of what society had already won, but which political and mining interests had taken from us,” she added.