Today I received the following chilling news from a colleague, published in yesterday's Latin American Herald Tribune. Mrs. Sandra Morelli, who heads up the Contraloria General de la Republica, has been receiving death threats and has decided to leave the country. We have been to Colombia a few times, to advise the Contraloria on mining environmental governance. It must be noted that our missions there were not anti-mining as such, but rather to assist the Contraloria in the establishment of proper environmental controls and auditing mechanisms. Colombia has suffered from a violent past and this situation is apparently not quite forgotten. Even the large international mining companies who are active in the country, whether in exploration or in mining, apparently feel the need to preserve the status quo where there is little effective environmental oversight of the mining sector.
Having met Mrs. Morelli, I am convinced that she is a professional person, dedicated to achieve a balanced and properly governed mining sector. However she can obviously not be expected to risk her life and that of her family. If she does indeed leave Colombia, it will be a great loss for the country.
All mining companies (certainly who are members of the ICMM and who profess to maintain high environmental standards and corporate social responsibility) should publicly distance themselves from such intimidations. Moreover, they should be much more open and transparent in their environmental reporting and should assist the government's agencies with appropriate monitoring and auditing procedures. They should not only comply with legislation (such as it is) but should also be seen to be living up their widely-published lofty ideals.