GAIDEPAC: Letter to President Juan Manuel Santos in regards to the violent and illegal presence of illegal mining in the ancestral black community of La Toma, Cauca

Dear President Juan Manuel Santos,

We are a group of academics and intellectuals in support of the Pacific region of Colombia and Afro-Colombian cultures. We come from different backgrounds and parts of the world, and we are united by a profound concern for the region, especially in regards to the destruction of the environment and the violation of the rights of Afrodescendant and indigenous communities.

In May 2014, we wrote to you about the atrocity that occurred on April 30 in the black communities of San Antonio, Cauca. Nearly 150 retroexcavators worked day and night in the illegal extraction of gold in San Antonio. That night, a mine collapsed and buried up to 50 people alive. The cause was no other than the illegal mining that was carried out without technical, social, or environmental oversight. Illegal mining has devoured black and indigenous territories by poisoning the water, sacrificing the ecology, consuming the bodies of our brothers and sisters, tearing apart the social fabric, and making ancestral mining impossible. In sum, illegal mining is destroying life.

A similar situation is repeating itself in the community of La Toma in the municipality of Suarez, Cauca. Thirty retroexcavators have carried out illegal mining operations for several weeks, and the government has remained quiet. The mayor’s office, the police, military, and the regional development authority (Corporación Autonoma Regional de Cauca, CRC) all know what is going on, and they permit it. In 2009, the inhabitants of La Toma continued their struggle against forced displacement by mining concessions and the intermediaries of multinational mining corporations. Given the lack of response to their official denouncements, the inhabitants of La Toma and their organizations decided to confiscate the illegal mining equipment last week. Now they are receiving death threats because of their decision to take action.

This illegal mining violates the fundamental rights of the communities, including their right to free, prior, and informed consultation and consent. The Community Council of La Toma lacks protection, despite Constitutional Court Sentence 1045-A of 2010 that protects them from mining by third parties.

How long will governmental institutions tolerate this criminal situation?

We urge you, as well as the appropriate local, regional, and national authorities, to immediately take the following actions:

  1. Protect the territory and leaders of the Community Council of La Toma who are being threatened for denouncing this situation.
  2. Confiscate the machines and investigate those responsible for the illegal mining. The communities should be provided with reparations for the damages caused by the illegal mining. These machines should be immobilized, and their owners should be brought to justice. They should be prevented from going to another area to do more illegal mining. Furthermore, the authorities and institutions complicit in the illegal mining – either directly or by omission – should be investigated.
  3. Protect the collective territories, the right to life, and the integrity of the leaders from the Community Council. This protection includes the implementation of Constitutional Court Orders 004 and 005 of 2009, which the national government has not done.
  4. Local, regional, and departmental governments (as well as the control entities of the state) should prevent situations like this one from occurring in the future.
  5. Recognize and protect ancestral and artisanal mining carried out by the communities in their territories. Furthermore, the following activities should be prohibited: authorizing mining permits without free, prior, and informed consultation and consent; mining with retroexcavators; and the use of toxic substances such as cyanide and mercury that poison the territory and violate the rights of the inhabitants.
  6. Understand that this situation occurs throughout the Pacific region and the country. Only an assertive decision by the state in the medium and long term in favor of a productive sector that prioritizes sustainability, life, and peace will resolve this issue not only in northern Cauca, but throughout the country.

Your government is responsible for these situations. Do not allow for the situation in La Toma to continue as if it were another chronicle of a tragedy foretold as it did in San Antonio last May. Your government will be responsible before all of the pertinent international human rights entities for any abuse against the Community Council of La Toma and its inhabitants. We strongly support the Community Council of La Toma in its brave struggle to remove the illegal mining equipment from its territory.


The Group of Academics and Intellectuals in Defense of the Colombian Pacific (GAIDEPAC)


Ministerio del Interior

Conmutador: 2427400
Despacho: fax 383987 Ext.1200- 1203
Atención al ciudadano

Dirección de Asuntos para Comunidades Negras

Correo electrónico:


Luis Eduardo Montealegre
Teléfono: 57 (1) 570 2000 – 57 (1) 414 9000
Correo electrónico:

Alcaldía de Suarez Cauca

Correo electrónico:
Teléfono: (57) (2) 3124532300

Personería Municipal de Suarez Cauca

Correo electrónico:

Gobernación del Cauca

Teléfono: 3137957825 – 3148193892
Correo Electrónico:

Corporación Autónoma Regional del Cauca

Correo electrónico:
Teléfonos:(2) 820 3232
Indicativos: 2
Fax: 8203243

Por el Grupo de Académicos e Intelectuales en Defensa del Pacífico (GAIDEPAC)

  • Kiran Asher, Depto. de Estudios Internacionales, Clark University, Worcester, USA
  • Teo Ballvé, Depto. de Geografía, Universidad de California, Berkeley, USA
  • Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Depto. de Música, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, USA
  • Mario Blaser, Depto. de Estudios Aborígenes, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada Marisol de la Cadena, Depto. de Antropología, Universidad de California, Davis, USA
  • José Jorge de Carvalho, Profesor de Antropología de la Universidad de Brasília
  • Anthony Dest, Institute of Latin American and Latino Studies, U of Texis, Austin.
  • Arturo Escobar, Depto. Antropología, Universidad de Carolina del Norte, Chapel Hill, USA Gustavo Esteva, Universidad de la Tierra, Oaxaca, México
  • Ann Farsnworth-Alvear, Universidad de Pensilvania
  • Diana Marcela Gómez, Depto. Antropología, Universidad de Carolina del Norte, Chapel Hill
  • Ramón Grosfogel, Depto. de Estudios Étnicos, U. de California, Berkeley.
  • Laura Gutiérrez, Depto. Antropología, Universidad de Carolina del Norte, Chapel Hill, USA
  • Charles Hale, Depto. de Antropología, Universidad de Texas, Austin, USA
  • Juli Hazlewood, Consultora UNESCO, Quito, Ecuador
  • Soren Hvalkoff, Investigardor Independiente, Copenhague, Dinamarca
  • Joseph Jordan, Profesor Estudios Afroamericano, U. de Carolina del Norte, Chapel Hill
  • Agustin Laó, Depto. de Sociología, Universidad de Massachusetts, Amherst, USA
  • Javier Laviña, Profesor Titular de Historia de América, Universitat de Barcelona
  • Enrique Leff, Profesor de Ecología, UNAM, México
  • Marta Luz Machado, Investigadora Independiente, Amsterdam
  • Karl Offen, Depto. de Geografía, Universidad de Oklahoma, USA
  • Ulrich Oslender, Estudios Globales & Socioculturales, Florida International U., Miami
  • Alejandro Parellada, IWGIA, Copenhague, Dinamarca
  • Tianna Paschel, Depto. de Sociología, Universidad de Chicago, USA
  • Diana Pombo Holguín, Investigadora Independiente, Oaxaca, México.
  • Jean Rahier, Estudios Africanos & Diaspóricos, Florida International University, Miami
  • Joanne Rappaport, Depto. de Antropología, Georgetown University, Washington, USA
  • Dianne Rocheleau, Depto. de Geografía, Clark University, Worcester, USA
  • Cristina Rojas, Depto. de Ciencia Política, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  • Jhon Anton Sanchez, Investigador y Docente, Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, Quito.
  • Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, oficina sobre asuntos latino americanos en Washington (WOLA)
  • Michael Taussig (Mateo Mina), Depto. de Antropología, Columbia University,
  • Irene Velez-Torres, Geografía, Universidad de Copenhagen, Dinamarca
  • Peter Wade, Depto. de Antropología, Universidad de Manchester, UK
  • Viviane Weitzner, Toronto, Canada.
  • Catherine Walsh, Estudios Culturales Latinoamericanos, U. Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito

En Colombia:

  • Jaime Arocha, Profesor Pensionado, Departamento de Antropología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Columnista de El Espectador
  • Oscar Almario, Depto. de Historia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellín
  • Juan Ricardo Aparicio, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Gerardo Ardila, Instituto de Estudios Urbanos, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Patricia Botero Gómez, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas, Universidad de Manizales Juana Camacho, Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, ICANH
  • Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Depto. de Economía, Universidad de los Andes
  • Luis Carlos Castillo, Profesor, Ciencias Sociales y Económicas, U. del Valle, Cali.
  • María Eugenia Chaves, Depto. de Historia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellín
  • Gustavo de Roux, Investigador Independiente, Cali
  • Gladys Jimeno, Experta en Derechos Humanos, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Myriam Jimeno, Profesora de Antropología, Universidad Nacional, Bogotá.
  • Claudia Leal, Depto. de Historia, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá
  • David López Matta, Programa de Doctorado en Ciencias Ambientales, U. del Valle, Cali
  • Betty Ruth Lozano, Investigadora Independiente, Cali
  • Marlin Mancilla Cajiao, Investigadora Independiente, Santander de Quilichao, Cauca.
  • Alfredo Molano, Investigador Independiente, Bogotá.
  • César Monje, Ecólogo e Investigador Independiente, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Eduardo Restrepo, Instituto Pensar, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, Facultad de Administración, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá
  • Jeannette Rojas Silva, Investigadora Independiente, Cali
  • Axel Rojas, Departamento de Estudios Interculturales, U. del Cauca, Popayán, Colombia
  • Amanda Romero, Facultad de Derecho, U. Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia, Tunja
  • Mario Diego Romero, Depto. de Historia, Universidad del Valle, Cali
  • Astrid Ulloa, Profesora Depto. de Geografía, Universidad Nacional, Bogotá.
  • Patricia Vargas Sarmiento, Investigadora Independiente, Bogotá.
  • Hildebrando Vélez, Programa de Doctorado en Ciencias Ambientales, U. del Valle, Cali
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