The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has promised to invest $1 billion in a gold mining operation in the Santurbán páramo in Colombia, Mining Minister German Arce announced during a visit to the Middle East.
Páramos are alpine tundras: high-altitude ecosystems without trees. The Santurbán páramo is famous for its unique biodiversity, and supplies freshwater to over 2.3 million people in Bucaramanga.
Mining companies from Colombia and Canada want to mine for gold in the thriving ecosystem, but are opposed by locals due to the threat mining poses on the environment and its inhabitants, such as leaking large amounts of cyanide and arsenic into the water supply.
While the Canadian mining company Eco Oro have had limits imposed on their exploration, 24% of the Santurbán is unprotected as it has not been designated an official páramo. Colombian company Minesa has been allowed to continue its exploration as it falls outside the protected area of the government.
According to Portafolio, the UAE is the primary stakeholder in Minesa, the Colombian company mining in the Santurbán páramo, and aims to invest further into the future, as well as in agriculture and tourism.
The impact such investments will have on the environment appears grim. Mining and other state-sanctioned corporate projects like deforestation will also most likely come at a great cost for the indigenous people of Colombia.