Colombia’s Constitution grants indigenous communities the right to “Free Prior Informed Consultation” or Consulta Previa (PC) before any project is considered near indigenous land. Gran Tierra undertakes the process, which can take months, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior. Gran Tierra is the first company to conduct PC for existing fields which were developed prior to the requirement for prior consultation occurred.
There are 14 indigenous groups as well as several Afro-Colombian groups near Gran Tierra’s operation areas. 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 Limon 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
Archaeology and Culturally Significant Sites
It is possible that project activities and land use could take place in areas that have cultural significance such as burial sites, and archaeological, historical and paleontological sites.
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.