Support labor rights in gold mining in Colombia

by Fundacion Amigos del Choco - AMICHOCO

On June 25, 2013 was held in the lounge Regina Villegas Mayoralty of Segovia (Antioquia) the Seminar-Workshop on Worst Forms of Exploitation in Artisanal and Small Scale, which aimed to inform about forms of labor exploitation, forced labor, the different legal and organizational tools to prevent and mitigate this phenomenon in artisanal mining.

This activity was coordinated by AMICHOCÓ and academically, by Ronald Koepte, consultant of Foundation Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) who funded by SOLIDARIDAD, lead this workshop to artisanal miners and community leaders in the Northeast region of Antioquia.

It is worth noting the presence of a large group of employees and partners of the mines Apique Rubí and El Cogote, who we have been advising and training on labor rights and responsible mining in the framework of the project we lead in the region since past year. Also, it is worth mentioning the role of ASOMINA leaded by Hernando Henao, the Women's Network 'Renacer para la equidad’ (Rebirth for Equity) represented by Carmen Restrepo and the labor inspector of Segovia mining district, Marla Uribe, who were fundamental in the organization and good development of the event.

The event was also attended by Kenneth Porter, ARM, Jose Camilo Córdoba, AMICHOCÓ project coordinator and Natalia Gonzales, project advisor.

Hernando Henao (Asomina) and Ronald Koepte (ARM)
Hernando Henao (Asomina) and Ronald Koepte (ARM)

This past month, the Amigos de Chocó foundation (Amichocó) continued with its project for the implementation of Labor rights and the Fairtrade/Fairmined standard in Colombia in the municipality of Segovia, Antioquia as part of a partnership developed with mining labor organizations.  The aim of the program is to improve labor rights in mines and promote the fair trade of gold for artisanal miners. This will be accomplished by allowing the organization of miners to confront labor issues with legal assistance, and to apply for FT/FM certification.  Through workshops with ARM and the National School of Syndicalism and visits to the field, Amichocó has already reached phase 3 of the project, despite a 3-month hiatus due to security concerns in the northeast of Antioquia. 

The initial stages created network of institutional support to help miners become more aware of violations against their labor rights. This has been achieved through alliances with local mining associations and legal representatives. Future plans call for a more comprehensive diagnostic of the El Cogote and the El Apique Rubí mines. In collaboration with these same local mining associations, Amichocó plans to further investigate the conditions experienced by miners, including the illegal use of child labor. Where needed, intervention will be taken to improve the conditions of miners and remove children from the mines. This same investigation is also being carried out small mining operation in the same region of Antioquia.      

By working closely with labor leaders and its partner organization in ARM (The Alliance for Responsible Mining), Amichocó hopes to establish a fair trade standard for both large and small-scale mining operation in Northeastern Antioquia. Future workshops together with ARM will further educate workers and their leader on their rights and help them notify responsible parties when they are violated.  

Workshop on Decent Work
Workshop on Decent Work

On February 7 AMICHOCÓ Foundation hosted the Workshop on Decent Work in Small Mining. This workshop is part of an agreement signed last year with the National Labor School (ENS, for its acronym in Spanish) for project "Fair Trade and Responsible Mining" that AMICHOCÓ is conducting in collaboration with Solidarity.

In this workshop, were invited some members of the team of the Foundation Alliance for Responsible Mining, ARM, as well as representatives of organizations supporting the project, Hernando Henao, president of ASOMINA and Marla Uribe, the labor inspector district of Segovia and Remedios, leader of the Interagency Committee for the Elimination of Child Labour. Finally, also attended by two representatives of two organizations of artisanal and small – scale mining in the region.

This activity is part of the component and Labor Rights Project aims to empower organizations in the region and the team working on the issue of decent work.

The development of the activity was as follows: First addressed the general guidelines for the construction of indicators-Identification of relevant variables and ways of measuring these variables. In a second time, will the issue of measuring decent work in Colombia, then give way to the characterization of forced labor in Colombia, with an emphasis on child labor, about progress and challenges.

Making their own indicators
Making their own indicators
Mine worker
Mine worker

For years, the department of Antioquia has been a leader in gold production in Colombia. However, the exploitation of the mines of the department has not been done under the best conditions, because many miners are still under informality. Besides the above working conditions and security are not the best and the indiscriminate use chemicals is harmful to the health of the environment. All the above has generated interest in implementing practices which minimize the environmental risks and ensure better health conditions in the mines and the conditions for those who work in the mines.

Currently, the importance of protecting our natural resources, has led to different companies, foundations and corporations to educate on best practices of mining and also sensitize communities on the importance of clean practices in mining.

It is for this reason that the Fundación Amigos del Chocó decided to bet on supporting the organizations of small miners in this region of Antioquia, as there is willingness by them to develop ways to advance more responsible mining and, at the same time, protect the environment and achieve community development.

In this sense after approach and diagnosis phase, we want to transform the situation of small-scale mining in northeastern Antioquia, the project aims to promote education and training events, generate optimal results that transcend in construction of progress, equity, environmental protection and fair trade. It also aims to provide small-scale miners, practical tools to strengthen organizationally.

Lead to these communities more responsible practices, involves combating modern forms of slavery which are related to mining: Prostitution, exclusion of women, labor exploitation and child labor.

Step in the mining process
Step in the mining process
AMICHOCO Social worker and local miner
AMICHOCO Social worker and local miner

We have been working with the artisan and small scale miners of Remedios and Segovia in the development of a technical diagnosis regarding the productive, environmental, managerial and labor status of the mining organizations in the region. Over the past few months AMICHOCÓ developed surveys, interviews and field visits that allowed our team to meet the miners get to know local authorities and get an idea of the labor situation of the people of Antioquia.

 Artisan and small scale miners in Antioquia have made great improvements in health and organizational safety but the contractual relationships and working conditions vary from mine to mine creating a very unstable environment for locals. Additionally, Colombia´s mining code prohibits women from entering and working in the mines, therefore, excluding them from the main productive activity of the region and forcing them to take up less paid and sometimes illegal jobs.

Furthermore, the presence of illegal groups in the area causes social unrest and there have been several killings in the past months. AMICHOCÓ will continue to work with local miners in the development of an action plan to bring 2 mining organizations into the FAIRTRADE/FAIRMINED scheme over the next 15 months. 

Miners from Segovia
Miners from Segovia
Entrance to mine in Segovia
Entrance to mine in Segovia

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Organization Information

Fundacion Amigos del Choco - AMICHOCO

Location: Envigado, Antioquia - Colombia
Website: http:/​/​
Fundacion Amigos del Choco - AMICHOCO
Project Leader:
María Villa
Program Assistant
Envigado, Antioquia Colombia

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