In what has become a recurring theme in Colombia’s rural regions, another municipality voted this weekend to ban the exploration of precious metals. On Sunday, citizens in the municipality of Jesús Maria in Santander voted on a referendum that would ban exploration. The referendum won with an astounding 97.05% to only 1.27% who voted to support exploration.
Colombia’s economy is heavily dependent upon export of the country’s natural resources and precious metals make up 5.6% of all exports. The bans, a growing trend in the country, have positioned multinational corporations who have invested heavily in Colombia’s precious metal sector against environmentalists who argue that the companies are using environmentally unsafe practices to extract the country’s resources.
However critics argue that laws to ban mining and precious metal exploration, especially in areas in which multinational companies have invested millions of dollars, sends a message that Colombia is an unfriendly environment for investment.
After years of being a reliable U.S. ally and one of Latin America’s most conservative states, Colombia moved sharply to the left following the election of current President Juan Manuel Santos. Perhaps even more troubling for foreign investment, the three leading candidates in polling for the 2018 Presidential Election are all left of center candidates, with former M19 terrorist Gustavo Petro in front in the polls.