I write this towards the end of two hectic but fascinating days in Bogota. Yesterday I participated in a conference about environmental effects of mining trying to share some Ghanaian experiences with Colombians.
And this morning I enjoyed a working breakfast organised by Razon Publica (= "public reason") in conjunction with IKV Pax Christi, my client for this week. Along with two experts on mining environmental issues, we answered questions on the environmental and social aspects of mining. Present in the room were fairly vocal people from both ends of the spectrum: anti-mining activists from the cajamarca area (a high and environmentally sensitive area in the Andes) and management persons from a gold mining company currently exploring there. Sometimes it was a challenge to stick to my view that mining is neither good nor bad by definition, but that all costs (including long-term environmental ones) need to be taken into account.
My two colleagues here (similarly contracted by IKV Pax Christi) are much more experienced than I am, have seen many more mining projects than I have, and have also visited Colombia before, which I have not. Still, my experiences from Ghana and Uganda, and also my opinions based on those, have been highly appreciated.
After the morning session, we were all interviewed for the Razon Publica YouTube channel, and so I must admit that I do hope my views will come out as honest as I expressed them... Time will tell, I guess.
This afternoon, while running though the rain to get to a meeting, we encountered a phenomenon I've not seen before: Some sort of traffic officials, wearing reflective gear and carring Stop/Go paddles, who keep an eye on the traffic lights through the lead-laden exhaust gas and wade into the traffic with their paddles to stop traffic when the light turns red, motioning pedestrians across. Whistle in mouth, they discourage the braver types of pedestrians from taking their own chances. The system seemed to work well, a sort of outsourcing of the need to look at traffic lights yourself.
Off to an old salt mine (and current cathedral) tomorrow, guests of the Comptroller General's Office.