Saturday, October 21, 2017

Become part of our community

captcha 

Companies 83

Written by October 18 2017 0

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced October 18 that it’s teaming-up with European-based gold buyers to promote environmentally, economically and socially responsible gold mining in Antioquia specifically and Colombia generally.

Noting that gold production in Colombia is up year-on-year -- and development projects underway are expected to triple output -- USAID nevertheless cited discouraging statistics indicating that only 12% of Colombian gold currently is produced safely and legally.

But new projects such as the European “Better Gold Initiative” (BGI) spearheaded by the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA) and the Swiss Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (SECO) could help boost safe and legal production – while also bringing greater benefits to more miners, according to USAID.

Switzerland hosts Europe’s four biggest gold refineries, which produce an estimated two-thirds of global finished gold, the agency noted.

The BGI would complement the USAID-sponsored “Oro Legal” (Legal Gold) program, which aims to convert many small, artisanal, illegal miners to legal mining, according to the agency.

“We establish contacts between small producers of legal gold and the gold refiners,” explains BGI director Thomas Hentschel. “Once they agree on a price, we move to the export phase, and with partners in the supply chain we seek companies that pay a special price and offer an additional incentive of up-to-US$1,000 per kilo, which [miners] can invest in social infrastructure, technical assistance and technology to substitute for the use of [toxic] mercury,” Hentschel added.

BGI already works with certification organizations including Fairtrade, Fairmined and the Responsible Jewelry Council.

However, SBGA is developing a parallel gold-buying strategy that includes 16 criteria for mining responsibility -- including environmental protection, labor rights, social responsibility and community relations.

Miners that comply with these criteria are considered “responsible gold producers” via a certification scheme that’s “less demanding and more flexible than existing certification systems,” Hentschel added.

In Colombia, the BGI scheme is already advancing toward certification with two companies in the department of Caldas, while BGI officials expect to see more miners in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia joining soon.

The goal is to achieve BGI certification and export of at least one tonne per year of qualified gold over the next four years, according to USAID.

Legal Gold More Profitable: USAID Study

Meanwhile, USAID noted that while Colombia has exported an annual average of 60 tonnes of gold in recent years, only 12.5 tonnes/year (20%) have been produced by legal miners. The other 80% of production by illegal miners fails to pay required royalties, taxes or obey environmental and labor-protection laws, USAID noted.

What’s more -- contrary to popular belief -- illegal miners lose between COP$18 million (US$6,000) to COP$30 million (US$10,000) per kilo of gold produced, compared to what they would earn via legal mining, according to a new USAID study.

The study examined a more-or-less typical illegal underground mining operation with seven employees working 25 days per month, extracting one kilogram of gold per 300 tonnes of rock mined each month.

That study employed baseline data including current international gold prices, the relative inefficiency of artisanal mining, the price paid by illegal versus legal gold buyers, and the relatively high price of mining explosives in the black market. Eliminating the high cost of illegal explosives would by itself cover much of the cost of converting to legal mining, the study found.

In the legal market, a package of “Indugel Plus” mining explosives including 154 sticks, 100 initiators and 200 meters of cord today costs about COP$700,000 (US$235), whereas the black-market cost oscillates between COP$2.5 million (US$830) to COP$5 million (US$1,600), the study found.

“With the money saved by buying legal explosives, miners could pay social security to their workers and make advances in environmentally responsible and safe mining,” explained Beatriz Duque Montoya, USAID’s “Oro Legal” coordinator.

Buyers of legal gold today pay miners 97.5% of the London gold reference price. But miners lacking certificates-of-origin get only 82% of the London reference price, the study found.

“If we assume that a small legal miner produces one kilogram of gold per month and the international reference price is COP$120,000 [US$40] per gram, then this miner would receive COP$117,000 [US$39] per gram or 97.5% of the reference price,” Duque said.

“On the other hand, the illegal miner would get, optimistically, COP$98 milllion [US$32,000] per kilo or 82% of the reference price. In a more realistic scenario, the illegal miner would obtain only 70% of the reference price, or COP$84 million [US$28,000] per kilo, which means that in the process of commercialization, the illegal miner would lose between COP$18 million [US$6,000] and COP$33 million [US$11,000] per month,” she concluded.

Besides losing money from illegal commercialization, the illegal miner also cuts net gold yield by using toxic mercury, the study found.

“It is proven that by using [mercury], losses of 40% to 50% of gold are realized,” according to the study. In contrast, when mercury-free processing is employed, then gold losses are only 8% to 15%, according to the study.

What’s more, if miners can achieve BGI certification, then they could earn a bonus up-to-COP$3 million (US$1,000) per kilo of gold -- and if they further achieve Fairtrade, Fairmined or Responsible Jewelry Council certifications, then bonuses could rise to as much-as-COP$12 million (US$4,000) per kilo, the study added.

Written by October 07 2017 0

Avianca – Colombia’s biggest airline – hailed an October 6 decision by a District Court Tribunal in Bogota declaring a strike by some 700 pilots belonging to the Asociacion Colombiana de Aviadores Civiles (ACDAC) labor-union as illegal.

ACDAC-- the smaller of two unions representing Avianca pilots -- represents a tiny fraction of the more than 22,000 Avianca employees that work in 26 countries. The ACDAC union said it would appeal the Tribunal decision to Colombia's Supreme Court.

About half of Avianca’s daily flights have had to be cancelled because of the ACDAC strike -- stranding thousands of travelers and hurting many businesses in Colombia that depend upon business-and-pleasure tourism.

In its lawsuit against the strike, Avianca contended that airlines are a “public service,” which under Colombia’s constitution forbids “public” union strikes.

However, Avianca also pointed out that even if such strikes conceivably could be allowed under the constitution, the 700 members of ACDAC shouldn’t be allowed to dictate labor terms to the 21,000 other employees of the company.

“After 17 days of illegal cessation of activities by the ACDAC pilots, which has gravely affected travelers, the economy, competitiveness and connectivity of our country, the Tribunal recognized the illegality of the strike pushed by this union,” according to Avianca. “Avianca hopes that given this court decision, the ACDAC pilots will now return to work at the earliest moment.”

In parallel to the court action, an arbitration panel organized by Colombia’s Labor Ministry would require ACDAC pilots to return to work while negotiations over contract terms would continue, Avianca pointed out. However, ACDAC has rejected this contention.

“As pilots return to work, we will continue to operate under contingency plans, aiming to serve our passengers without delays and with the security that has always characterized our operations,” added Avianca CEO Hernán Rincón.

Avianca pilots are already among the best-paid employees in all of Colombia and enjoy numerous perks. The ACDAC union, however, is pushing for a wage-and-benefits package equivalent to a 60% hike in pay – wildly in excess of the wage increases realized by all other workers’ unions in Colombia, and vastly in excess of the national 4% annual inflation rate.

One contract change proposed by Avianca but opposed by the union is usage of cell-phone messages to notify pilots of flight delays or cancellations. Today, pilots get such notices via motorized couriers, an archaic and costly system.

In response, the ACDAC pilots are demanding that Avianca buy them new iPads or laptops -- just to receive company messages and do telecommuting work.

The ACDAC pilots also are demanding a 40 hours/month cutback in work hours – meaning they’d work 160 hours/month instead of 200.

They’re also demanding a COP$2 million (US$680) payment for upgrading personal office spaces, a COP$300,000 (US$100) per month subsidy for internet and phone connections, and extra pay for telecommuting work -- equivalent to 300% of what they’re paid while flying.

The pilots also are demanding unlimited free vacation flights for themselves and their families, free medical insurance for family members, lifetime free medical care upon retirement, a 70% reduction in income tax payments, and a COP$500,000 (US$170) monthly bonus if planes occasionally transport “dangerous” materials.

Finally, the pilots are demanding a COP$6 million (US$2,000) contract signing bonus.

Entry-level copilots at Avianca start out with salaries of COP$9.4 million (US$3,200) per month but can reach COP$17 million (US$5,790) per month after several years of seniority. Avianca pilot captains start out at COP$18 million (US$6,000) per month but salaries can go as high as COP$28 million (US$9,540) per month with more seniority.

Written by October 04 2017 0

Medellin-based FCM Global announced October 3 that it has become the first Colombian medical-marijuana producer to win all four required licenses for cultivation, processing, manufacture and export of “low-THC” cannabis-oil extracts.

“Recently issued by the Colombian Ministry of Justice, this export license complements FCM’s existing regulatory approvals, granted to the organization in August 2017, to legally cultivate, process, and manufacture low-THC medical cannabis oil extracts,” according to FCM.

FCM is “well-positioned to create CBD [cannabidiol hemp oil] extracts at a low cost of production and to distribute finished oils for domestic and international markets with legalized medical/research frameworks,” according to the company.

“Our purpose is to serve as a collaborative partner to pharmaceutical firms, research organizations, and other wellness-focused companies, and to help develop new scientific formulations and extracts that meet our clients’ specific needs within these critical sectors,” added FCM CEO Carlos Velasquez.

Colombia’s regulatory framework, “ideal equatorial growing location, and deep talent pool of medical cannabis experience makes it the best place on Earth to produce scalable volumes of terpene-rich cannabinoid extracts in an environmentally-friendly way,” according to the company, which has offices in Medellin and operations in the nearby suburb of La Ceja, Antioquia.

FCM’s “co-sourced Colombia” model “enables finished goods manufacturers globally to benefit from Colombia’s comparative advantages in medical cannabis (accelerated and lower-cost research, cultivation, and oil extraction) without sacrificing levels of control, efficiency, or quality,” according to the company.

PharmaCielo Update

Another Medellin-based medical-marijuana company that’s well-along in obtaining all required licenses is PharmaCielo (see "PharmaCielo Buys Marijuana Farm, Nursery in Rionegro," Medellin Herald, July 25, 2016.)

Aside from PharmaCielo and FCM Global, other Colombian companies obtaining some (but not all four) licenses include Cannavida, Ecomedics, Cannalivio, Econnabis and Pideka, while 22 other companies have petitioned for licenses, according to a recent report from Colombian business newspaper Portafolio.

The proposed licenses are for operations in Antioquia, Cauca, Casanare, Magdalena, Meta, Santander, Cundinamarca, Tolima and Valle del Cauca, according to that report.

Written by September 20 2017 0

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Medellin-based gold-mining giant Mineros SA jointly announced September 20 that they’re boosting funds and technical aid to formerly artisanal or illegal miners in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia.

“The productive and commercial capacity of beekeepers of Bajo Cauca will be strengthened thanks to the agreement established between USAID and Fundacion Mineros SA, and the Association of Beekeepers of Bajo Cauca and the South of Bolivar (Asapibas), through the ‘Oro Legal’ [Legal Gold] program,” according to the agency.

Funding for the program now tops COP$2 billion (US$692,000).

“The direct beneficiaries are 88 families from Asapibas, who contributed with the initial assembly of the core [beekeeping] laboratories. In the first phase of the project they were given tools, elements of protection, inputs, technical assistance and training. In a second phase they will receive a certain number of hives to expand their apicola [bee-honey] production units.

“The goal is for each family to have at least 45 populated hives, which will allow them to generate monthly income of between one and two minimum wages,” which in Colombia is COP$738,000/month or about US$255 today.

The “Oro Legal” project organizers first established two test laboratories for the production of biological cores -- in the Naranjal village of the municipality of Zaragoza and the second lab in the village of Bocas de la Llana, municipality of El Catre .

“These laboratories will be responsible for supplying the bee population to 3,180 hives, which will be delivered to families for the production of honey and other by-products,” according to USAID.

“The Mineros S.A. Foundation for its part provided the premises for the assembly of the laboratories, professionals for installation, specialized advice with experts from the Universidad Nacional and the business strengthening program ‘Avanza,’ in addition to the assembly of an associative plot for a laboratory adjacent to the mine La Ye.

“In addition to receiving materials and supplies for the apiaries, the beneficiaries were trained in the production of apitoxin, pollen and propolis, by-products of the hive that will represent additional [income] resources," according to the agency.

“Before, I worked as a barequero [informal gold miner],” added Juan David Pedroza, a member of Asapibas. “Now that I know the world of bees, I bet on beekeeping. After training, I also got the opportunity to work as an extension technician on this project,” he added.

Written by September 05 2017 0

Toronto, Canada-based Gran Colombia Gold announced September 5 that a violent strike by illegal gold miners in the Antioquian municipalities of Segovia and Remedios is finally over – benefitting more than 2,500 legal miners affiliated with the company.

The 42-days-long strike resulted in several deaths, widespread vandalism and economic suffering for thousands of residents in the area.

“We are pleased to see the civil strike in Segovia and Remedios has been lifted and we can get back on track with our 2017 operating and capital plan,” said Gran Colombia CEO Lombardo Paredes.

“Through our commitment to economic development in Segovia and Remedios, we will incorporate additional small mining collectives into our contract mining model, which will allow continued operation of ancestral mining within our title in accordance with the government’s requirements for health, safety and environmental responsibility.

“Although our production in August [during the strike] was below normal, we continue to expect that we will meet our annual production guidance for 2017 of 150,000 to 160,000 ounces of gold,” Paredes added.

Over the next few months, Gran Colombia “will negotiate specific operating contracts with each of the mining collectives based on general terms agreed to last Friday [September 1] between the Ministry of Mines, the Governor of Antioquia, the Mayors of Segovia and Remedios, the Mesa Minera and the company,” according to the company.

“The monetary compensation under these new operating contracts will be established for each mining collective individually with the company retaining between 10% and 60% of the spot price for each ounce of gold produced. The contracts will also require that all ore is to be processed at the company’s Maria Dama plant,” according to Gran Colombia.

Illegal miners in the strike area have been dumping toxic mercury into the environment as well as invading legal claim areas run by responsible miners (some of which are multinationals). Violent criminal groups also sometimes ally with these illegal miners in return for extorsion payments.

Many illegal miners also objected to new government laws requiring permits and legalization, which will put a stop to mercury dumping. Others claim "ancestral" rights to mining -- even when such mining involves irresponsible invasion of legal mining operations that obey all environmental, tax and labor laws.

Continental Gold Launches ‘Future Harvest’

Meanwhile, fellow Toronto-based Continental Gold announced September 5 the launch of a “Future Harvest” program aiming to help mining families in western Antioquia diversify incomes and improve lives.

“Future Harvest is projected to directly benefit the communities of Buriticá, Santa Fe de Antioquia, Giraldo and Cañasgordas, which are all in the company’s direct area of influence,” according to the company.

“Continental Gold intends to contribute approximately US$370,000 of the total program investment of US$518,000,” according to the company.
The program involves 14 private and public entities “to advance the implementation of a self-sufficient sustainability strategy with productive agricultural business,” according to the company.

“The first seven business plans funded under Future Harvest include programs for cultivating coffee, plantains, poultry, garden produce, strawberries, as well as fish farming and fiber production.

“Each business plan was structured with the communities and local and regional institutions, taking into account local productive capacities, soil productivity and quality and other variables, while promoting efficient water resource management and the use of best agricultural practices to balance development with protecting ecosystems.

“Each business plan also features the development of an integrated rural program, ongoing training and the transfer of productive assets, as well as providing access to savings programs and support regarding consumption, which have been proven to result in significant and lasting improvements on the quality of life,” the company added.

Commenting on the program, Buriticá Mayor Humberto Castaño added: “Through responsible, legal and organized mining, we can generate income to transform our land. With Future Harvest, on the day mining operations finish, we can guarantee that there will be sustainable economic activity in the municipality.”

Page 1 of 7

SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

MEDELLÍN PHOTOS by Gabriel Buitrago (click to enlarge)

Featured

Volunteering February 20 2017 0
As the late North American philosopher A.B. Johnson once quipped, “mighty oaks from little acorns…

About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

Contact US

logo def
Medellin Herald: Find news, information, reviews and opinion on business, events, conferences, congresses, education, real estate, investing, retiring and more.
  • COL (4) 386 06 27
  • USA (1) 305 517 76 35
  •  www.medellinherald.com 
  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago
MPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGnav