Fuente: Asociación para el Pensamiento y Defensa del Ambiente.
Located in the western part of the central mountain range in Colombia, in proximity to the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, and jurisdiction of the Department of Caldas, Colombia, Tolda Fría has historically been a soil intervened for the exploration and extraction of minerals that are highly appreciated by its commercial value. From extractive practices, artisanal and informal, up to exploration and exploitation works legalized by the respective mining and environmental authorities of the country, Tolda Fría has been a territory of which many have benefited from the enormous mineral wealth that it has provided. But the existing richness in this territory does not seem to be reduced to the great mineral bastion that it retains. There is also a natural wealth that is explained by the very geographical location that these mineral-rich soils have, and which manifests itself through its important environmental services.
As noted previously, Tolda Fría is immersed in the foothills of the cordillera central, in proximity to the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, more exactly in what might be called as its buffer zone. This particular location given at elevations above 3000 meters for this territory represents the existence of a strong water presence explained or justified perhaps by the closeness or proximity to the snow-capped and moorland zones in summits of the Colombian Central Andes. Brooks such as La María, Romerales and California, and rivers, like Chinchiná river, owe their existence to these Andean peaks which meet an amalgam of water, vegetation and faunal wealth.
The Tolda Fría mine rises then under the imposing breeze of a highly valuable natural territory for the unique ecosystem that it holds. The territories and soils that make up this ecosystem have been legally protected by the Colombian legal system; with the issuance of the law 2 of 1959 the central forest reserve was created and with it a large portion of the territory which is now exposed to exploitation was reserved for conservation. Likewise, the Department, through the Corporación Autónoma Regional de Caldas, gave special treatment to a large portion of forests of this threatened area. Thus was created in the year 2002 the protective forest reserve “Bosques de la CHEC (Central Hidro-eléctrica de Caldas)”.
Large-scale mining is currently projected in Tolda Fría area. The Canadian mining company Rio Novo makes progress on exploratory work at the site where extraction is projected, but these works have not been peaceful, the deforestation of native forest within the so-called Bosques de la CHEC has been on the agenda. This reprehensible practice of the Canadian company has been already pecuniarily sanctioned by the environmental authority of the Department. The respective sanctioning process found that in fact the Canadian company had caused an enormous ecological damage having deforested a large amount of native forest. The sanction was superior to a 100 million pesos, but for the mining company the benefit was greater than the cost of the sanction and therefore it had no qualms in paying for his reprehensible act. The large-scale mining projects in the area also puts at risk the water security of the municipality of Manizales and the inhabitants of the watershed that benefit from the waters that are born in this important area.
The aqueduct of Manizales in its intake Luis Prieto, which is located in this sector, provides drinking water to approximately 150,000 people from the exploitation of water of the creeks La María, California and Romerales, all of them likely to be highly contaminated by the presence of extractive practices in the surrounding areas. This circumstance may lead to an inevitable shortage of safe water purification that could generate greater water insecurity throughout the southern center of the Department of Caldas.
Currently, only a small portion of the citizenry knows the situation in Tolda Fría. Despite this, there is already a class action filed by the Sociedad de Mejoras Públicas de Manizales (Society of Public Improvements) and assisted by different social and institutional actors such as the University of Caldas, environmental citizens and the Personería Municipal to curb this extractive activity and the one projected in the sector by the Canadian mining company Rio Novo. The Asociación Para el Pensamiento y Defensa del Ambiente (Association for thought and defense of the environment) is an environmental organization established in the town of Manizales, which has adopted a reflective and critical position about mining activity in Tolda Fría, this is why it has considered also important to present and disclose to the public the topicality of the extractive process in the mining territory, emphasizing the possible effects that such processes can generate in the collective rights and human rights of the population settled in the southern center of the Department of Caldas, population that could largely be affected.