BOGOTA, April 27 South Africa's AngloGold
Ashanti has halted all exploration work at its La
Colosa project in central Tolima, Colombia, after voters backed
a proposal to ban mining in the municipality, the company said
The decision comes amid legal wrangling over environmental
regulations and community opposition that have worried investors
and prompted the mining minister to promise a new law to
reconcile central government-granted mining permits with local
and judicial concerns.
The company, which has been carrying out exploration work at
the site outside of the town of Cajamarca for 14 years, said in
a statement it "accepted" the result of last month's vote.
"Diverse reasons which range from the institutional, the
political and particularly the social, with the recent
referendum, oblige us to take the unfortunate decision to stop
all project activities and with it all employment and
investment, until there's certainty about mining activity in the
country and in Tolima," AngloGold said.
The Tolima vote was made possible by a Constitutional Court
decision that overturned the national government's sole
authority to approve mining projects, allowing mayors and
provincial governors to challenge exploration permits, to the
delight of environmental groups and some politicians.
The La Colosa project had a potential investment of $2
billion, the company has said, and could yield 28 million ounces
of gold. A huge majority of Cajamarca residents - 98.8 percent -
voted against allowing mining in the referendum. AngloGold has
invested some $900 million in Colombia since 2006 and La Colosa
was the largest of its three projects in the country.
The company said it would continue to seek constructive
dialogue about mining in the country.
Colombia is the world's fifth-largest producer of coal and
has rich deposits of gold, ferronickel, silver, copper and
Community votes are not the only concern for investors -
Canadian company Eco Oro Minerals Corp is waging a
legal battle against a court ruling that bars exploration in
half its concession in an effort to preserve high-altitude
(Reporting by Julia Cobb; Editing by Chris Reese)