Colombian Priest Assassinated After Opposing Canadian Mining Company

Marmato Gold Mining implicated in murder of Marmato Priest Jose Reinel Restrepo

Statement from Colombia Support Network

We of the Colombia Support Network express our outrage at the September 1, 2011 murder of Father Jose Reinel Restrepo, parish priest in the town of Marmato in Caldas Department in west central Colombia. Father Restrepo had spoken out against a plan by the Canadian mining company Medoro Resources, which merged in July with a Colombian company, Gran Colombia Gold. The plan would require the town of Marmato to be moved from its present location so that an open-pit gold mine could be developed there. The Canadian mining interest in Colombia fits with the recent approval by Colombia and Canada of a so-called Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, an agreement which we believe will have deleterious consequences for both countries, but particularly for rural communities in Colombia.

Town residents in Marmato have opposed the Medoro-Gran Colombia Gold plan, which would also close down small-scale artisan mining in the highland area where Marmato is located. This small-scale mining has been a feature of the area since the Spanish conquest and, according to the Mayor of Marmato, provides employment for more than 2,000 miners, upon whose earnings the town depends. The Mayor also has pointed out that years ago an agreement had been reached to keep the highlands where Marmato is located available for small-scale mining, while allowing the Colombian government to development mining projects in the lowlands. This accord would be breached by the proposed open-pit mine in the highland areas where the town is located.

Father Restrepo spoke out publicly against the Canadian mining plan, which he noted would undermine the livelihood of Marmato’s artisan miners and cause tremendous damage to the community and its residents. On August 28, 2011 a video (with English subtitles) in which he spoke out against the Medoro mining plan was placed on Youtube. Four days later Father Restrepo was murdered as he traveled by motorcycle between Marmato to a neighboring community.

The persons responsible for his murder have not yet been identified, nor has the cause of the attack on Father Restrepo been determined. But few doubt that his murder was related to his outspoken objection to the Medoro/Gran Colombia Gold Mine plan.

Please write to Colombian Vice- President Angelino Garzón, the Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Interior s, Minister of Mines Carlos Rodado, and Fiscal General Vivianne Morales to urge them to see that the murder of Father Restrepo is properly investigated and those responsible prosecuted for murder, and to stop the Marmato mine development by Medoro/Gran Colombia Gold. And write to or call the  official of the gold companies to tell him to halt implementation of their damaging and fatality-producing project.

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