Prior Consultation with Indigenous Groups
Colombia’s Constitution grants indigenous groups the right to “Free Prior Informed Consultation” or Consulta Previa (PC) before any project is considered near indigenous land. These communities can be found throughout the country, and there are a number of indigenous groups and several Afro-Colombian groups in the Putumayo near Gran Tierra’s operations. With its increased exploration and development activities in the Putumayo, many of which interact with these protected communities, GTE has created a department focused solely on the Prior Consultation process. In 2017, the company hired seven people to focus solely on this work.
PC represents a formal process for establishing dialogue between ethnic communities and the company to ensure they are adequately informed and consulted about company activities; how these activities might interact with and/or impact them; and how any impacts will be mitigated, compensated or prevented. GTE, like other companies in Colombia that participate in the PC process, works with Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior, which follows the formal process and ensures that someone from the ministry or local government are present during each community interaction. GTE manages several programs designed to support indigenous people, including education, home repair and post-secondary school technical training and university tuition. The company has also built four ancestral cultural centers for community meetings and activities in order to strengthen the traditions of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities of Orconepul, Alto Orito, Afro Council of Puerto Limón and Martin Luther King.
Activities conducted by GTE to support indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups in Puerto Limón, Villagarzón and Piamonte include support for community-interest projects, cultural celebrations, secondary education and training in Afro-Colombian music for children.
“Our culture and our customs are key to our identity – food, dress, drink, language. All indigenous cultures worldwide are being influenced by development and languages get lost. We have to start preserving and keeping our customs. And as you lose these traditional things your well-being disappears. Companies think of development as something they can bring, and sometimes, because we have needs, we accept without thinking about how they can also change us in ways we are not prepared for. We understand GTE is not responsible for everything, and the government has a role to play, but we want to keep working with Gran Tierra. The company has good people working for them, and they are responsive and want to get close to our community while it often seems that other companies think we are below them. Between the pre-consultation process, compensation and other programs, GTE has been very helpful. Now we want GTE to come to us and have a better understanding of how we can work even better together for the future. We want to strengthen our life plan and our culture. To us, that is to be rich. So for us, what’s important is the quality of the projects, which have to be based on our culture. We are looking for help with strengthening our communities in the education and health sectors, self-governance and values – that’s where we want support.”IRMA ALICIA MOJOMBOY JOJOA, Inga Tribe
Protecting Colombia’s Archaeological Heritage
As an operator in a country with significant archaeological potential, Gran Tierra implements Colombia’s Preventive Archaeology Program in all of our projects. This allows the company to identify and plan for the specific archaeological characteristics of the areas where the company wants to build new civil works or infrastructure. In turn, this helps to assure the protection, conservation and recovery of the country’s archaeological heritage.
Gran Tierra’s Environmental Management Plan, the EMP, calls for the following measures to be taken:
- Prior to the beginning of earthworks or excavation in any area that has not been disturbed earlier for the development of well pads or roads a preliminary assessment of cultural/archaeological values in the area to be disturbed will be conducted by a qualified specialist.
- If significant sites exist or are suspected, appropriate measures to protect or document these sites and recovery of any artifacts will be implemented.
- In areas of suspected high archaeological value, a local archaeologist will be employed to provide on-site support in identifying chance discoveries and developing an appropriate approach to avoiding or preserving them.
In addition, as a prerequisite to receiving an environmental license, Colombia authorities require developers to prepare a site-specific archaeological management plan.
GTE Funds Construction of Two Cultural Heritage Museums in Putumayo
Out of respect for Colombia’s important cultural and archaeological heritage, Gran Tierra has funded the construction of two museums in Putumayo that will preserve and research items from areas of archaeological significance. Construction of one museum began in 2017 and another one is planned for 2018. The voluntary funding of the museums is another example of the company’s operating philosophy, Beyond Compliance, at work. When the museums are completed, communities in the area will for the first time have easy access to view the displays and learn about the region’s history.