INTERVIEW-Colombia to clarify mining laws as ruling, vote worry investors – by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta (Reuters U.K. – April 24, 2017)

BOGOTA – Colombia’s government will seek congressional approval to harmonize national and local mining laws, the mines and energy minister said on Monday, as legal wrangling over environmental regulations and community opposition threaten investment.

Voters in central Tolima province last month backed a proposal to ban mining projects in their municipality, raising questions about the future of an AngloGold Ashanti Ltd gold exploration in the area. Canadian company Eco Oro Minerals Corp, meanwhile, is waging a legal battle against a court ruling that bars exploration in half its concession.

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 move caused uncertainty among investors in Colombia, the world’s fifth-largest producer of coal with rich reserves of gold, ferronickel, silver, copper and emeralds. The government hopes the law would ease concerns by clarifying how land use disagreements between local and national authorities would be resolved, Mines and Energy minister German Arce said in an interview.

“It’s a very in-depth discussion that we’re having – how to harmonize the different legal mandates, because mayors have the power to organize land but the national government administers the subsoil,” Arce told Reuters.

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