Living in one of the world’s longest standing mining jurisdictions, many Colombians have not historically benefitted from the country’s extractive resources. Outdated government structures and opaque decision-making processes have created barriers between citizens and the sector. Since 2015, Comunica has worked with policymakers and local communities to apply new technology and approaches to age-old problems – improving the lives of Colombians, with a focus on the poor, vulnerable and women.
“Comunica” is the Building Extractive Sector Governance in Colombia project, funded by Global Affairs Canada. Pictured above, apprentices at Colombia’s National Learning Service (SENA) demonstrate the use of water monitoring equipment in Meta.
“Legal mining is the only one that generates benefits and it is here where I thank Comunica for betting on this great project, a transformative project that is definitely helping us to change the face (of the mining sector),” said Sandra Sandoval, Vice-Minister of Mines, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Government of Colombia.
On May 31, 2021, Comunica officially came to a close. Leaders in the Government of Colombia attended the virtual closing event hosted by Alinea, alongside more than 100 key stakeholders, partners, beneficiaries, staff and technical experts from across Colombia and Canada.
In her opening address, Comunica Project Director Shantel Jordison shared what she observed as being unique to Comunica and, ultimately, its success: 1. The strength of the working relationship between the project and Government of Colombia; 2. The trust between the project and communities, and by extension between communities and extractive sector; and 3. The impact of the project on advancing gender equality in the mining sector.
“Over the last six years, we’ve been so happy to work side-by-side with communities and government decision-makers in Colombia to make the extractive sector yield better environmental, social and economic outcomes for everyday Colombians,” said Jordison. “Especially for those who have been historically excluded from sharing the many benefits from the sector.”
Working towards SDG 13
Improving climate and environmental outcomes underscored many of Comunica’s activities. The project approached natural resource management through an environmentally sustainable framework, with a key contribution towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 being an improvement to transparent and evidence-based decision making within key government institutions. At the national level, Comunica introduced the principle of environmental cost assessment, including a specialized protocol for the valuation of environmental costs.
Three target communities now have mercury elimination strategies, including gender-sensitive tools, as well as options for replacing the use of mercury to minimize economic impact. Comunica also strengthened participatory water monitoring networks across the country.
Achieving an e-government milestone
The launch of AnnA Mineria in 2020 marked a significant achievement for the project. AnnA Mineria is an online integrated digital mining management platform that facilitates transparent and responsible management of the country’s natural resources. In the platform’s first three months of operation, more than 16,600 users registered and the system received 8,000 applications for mining concessions. This translated into $250M CAD of new investment committed by the private sector to new mining projects in Colombia. There are now more than 25,000 users in the system.
“AnnA Mineria is a system that has managed to positively impact the mining sector in terms of transparency, efficiency and trust,” said Juan Miguel Duran, President of the National Mining Agency. “We have developed a webservice that has allowed the financial system to access mining information in this system.”
In December 2020, AnnA Mineria received a #LatamDigital Award as one of the best digital transformation projects in the category of best government support for digital SMEs.
Learning today for tomorrow
As with all Alinea projects, achieving lasting change was central to Comunica. The project delivered a 100-hour diploma course with the National University of Colombia, as well as a variety of courses covering local economic development, water monitoring, elimination of mercury use and gender approach for the mining and energy sector.
Prior to the project, mining contracts spent two years in processing. Collaborative efforts between Comunica and government partners reduced this timeframe to 177 days while also increasing transparency.
“Working in communities in the Antioquia, Meta and Putumayo regions of the country, we set out to improve the socioeconomic conditions of Colombians,” said Camilo Ruiz, Comunica Field Manager. “When I reflect on how we supported these communities and government partners over the course of the project, I am proud to say we achieved our goals.”
In six short years and maintaining operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Comunica catalyzed investment in mining, harnessed the power of data and strengthened institutions and governance systems. These changes are working together to drive transparency, environmental sustainability and inclusivity across Colombia mining today and in the future.