Field visit to Soacha

Field visit to Soacha

Yesterday saw us visiting a couple of mining sites for building materials near Bogota, and surrounding areas.  Rather than providing a lot of text, in this instance, I prefer to show some annotated pictures:

One of my colleagues on the current mission to Colombia, is Steve Fraser from The Airshed, here accompanied by two stylish colleagues working with the Contraloria General de la Republica.  The umbrella is to ward of the sun at an altitude of some 2,500m , as is the snazzy hat worn by the “dust-man”.


Here is a view of the partially-rehabilitated and -vegetated gravel and sand mining site.  Doesn't look too bad, so near to the offices of the environmental department.  In fairness, they were doing as good a job as possible, I think.

Partially rehabilitated mine site


Two colleagues from the Contraloria overlooking the mining faces of this gravel and sand mining site, as well as the nursery below.

Contraloria colleagues overlooking site


The sites' environmental engineer pointing out well-preserved rock paintings by the Chipcha's, original inhabitants of the area.

Environmental engineer and rock paintings


Measuring water quality with Contraloria staff.  Stripes with compliments of an old camera.

Water quality measuring


Robert Moran discussing aspects of water quality sampling.  Mountains (yet to be mined?) in the background, as well as the outskirts of Soacha, where some of the gravel and sand has been converted into concrete…

Robert Moran discussing water quality measurements


Illegal lead smelter (for recycling car batteries, etc.) right next door to the legal mining operation.  The smelter looks deserted, since it only operates at night (when control is difficult…).  The stream between the quarry and the smelter runs into Soacha, and despote three cyclones, it is presumed that airborne particles and gases move in the same direction, down a narrow valley.

Illegal lead smelter


Lunch venue after the sites visits.  “La Gallina Ardiente” refers to spicy chicken dishes, and not to “hot chicks” as some had suggested.  Had an excellent lunch there, in great company too.

Lunch location


Some of our lunchtime companions.  This was the talking side of the table.

Lunch group 1


This side of the table was more involved with the serious side of lunch – eating.

Lunch group 2


In summary, the pictures should illustrate an enjoyable day outside, and in good company.  From a technical point of view, the main message was that operations that have good relationships with the environmental authorities, and try to do a good job, don't look to bad.  Even though these were only quarries for building materials, rather beningn from a chemical point of view.  The effect on the landscape is pretty obvious, though.

Moreover, the existence of numerous illegal operations (lead smelters and other mining operations) right next door to legal operations, point to problems in the institutional governance framework….