From a theoretical standpoint, effective multi-stakeholder collaboration is a key driver in establishing sustainable community development in resource locations. However, in practice there are factors that can either limit or foster those processes. Based on recent governance debates and stakeholders’ perceptions at all levels of governance, this section discusses and presents stakeholders’ perceptions identified as high-priority areas for sustainable community development. This study also introduces a governance approach for sustainable community development to be applied to resource regions in Colombia or somewhere else.
This research also explored the different conflict-collaboration dynamics during focus group discussions with local communities and national decision-makers. We analyzed the synergies and differences between local and national governance levels according to stakeholders’ perceptions. Our research showed that there are significant discrepancies between perceptions and priorities between levels of governance. For example, while stakeholders at the national level think nationalizing royalties may reduce corruption at the local levels, local stakeholders perceive royalty nationalization as improper appropriations of local resources, leaving locals with problems and outsiders with the control of resources and decision-making power. Thus, peace processes should also understand better the differences between governance dynamics at various levels in order to avoid skewed distribution of resources between actors at the different governance levels during peace processes.
4.2. Perceptions at the Local Level of Governance
“Peace with hunger” was a persistent message at the focus group discussion with local communities. Unrest, discomfort and tensions among participants were evident. “Barequeros”, the local name for artisanal emerald miners, were actively involved in the discussion. Mining associations’ members, merchants, town council members, community and women’s leaders were also actively involved. The beginning of the workshop was characterized by a dense environment.
The dialogue had not yet started when participants engaged in a vibrant debate about the absence of employment, education and entrepreneurship opportunities for locals.
“When I first started the ‘guaqueo’, or informal mining, I used to exchange emeralds for groceries. Over the time, I was able to get some money that helped me pay my children’s education. Nowadays, there is no artisanal mining. Unfortunately, the government think we all are criminals. There are policies in place but those only applied to multinational companies. We were told we were not allowed to mine. We will be persecuted if we continue undertaking artisanal mining activities on informal basis. We need to have money to be able to mine. This is a very complex issue and we are witnessing the beginning of a huge social problem that will exacerbate in the coming years. Due to the loss of mining as a livelihood option, people are embarking on criminal activities. They do not have any other option. What do you do when you have no job and you are starving? You engage in illegal activities, right? If we do not diversify the economy, if we do not educate people, if we do not build capacity in other areas different from mining such as entrepreneurship, we will start witnessing the rising of the worse criminals in this region .”
A lack of effective governance mechanisms has been identified as a high-priority area that needs major attention. Pressing issues regarding royalty allocation have been highlighted by the local government and community members [1
]. The local government strongly stated that certain mechanisms in place to try to foster sustainable community development were weakened by the changes in the mining royalty system [34
]. To what extent the current governance environment at the local level has not been beneficial for artisanal miners, their families and local stakeholders was a persistent issue brought up at the local level.
In conversations with the mayor, he stated that the lack of community development is due to the decision made at the national government to reduce mining royalties for local governments. Before 2011, local royalties would go directly to mining municipalities where minerals were produced, but recently the national government centralized the royalties and municipalities have to apply for projects related to mining activities. Funding is disbursed to execute projects that drive sustainable community development and therefore mining revenues will be allocated appropriately and in alignment with local development aspirations. However, field observations and focus groups with local communities showed this is not the case. Surprisingly, since 2011, the year in which the new royalty system was issued, Muzo has submitted only one project, which had not been implemented yet [34
]. It was also found that the local government has not been able to execute past projects. Neither local government officials were able to provide us with current royalty allocation reports accounting for the execution of past and current development projects.
“In the past, 100% of mining royalties were allocated to Muzo. Now with the new royalty system Muzo receives only between 20 and 30% of mining royalties. This money has been invested mainly in projects in potable water, education and health. Muzo is a producer area that deserves to have 100% of mining revenues and royalties. We disagree with the new system and decision made on the new royalty allocation system .”
Previous research in the Colombian context shows that the new royalty system has elicited different reactions at the three levels of governance. While local governments complain about the significant reduction of mining revenues, the actors at the national level agree that the new system mitigates royalty allocation issues associated with poor local government managerial capacity, corruption and lack technical capacity at the local level. The regional level of governance has a neutral position in this regard [6
Major discomfort at the community level had to do with the arrival of an American mining company in Muzo. The company acquired the concession of some of the best mining areas. It brought peace as the property rights were cleared reducing disputes of mining rights and the company fenced off its concessions, increasing security. The company also modernized mining processes investing in mining technology, health, safety and environment management, including actions in corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, open-access artisanal mining was the only livelihood option for most of the individual miners. Even though some of the artisanal miners found jobs in the mines controlled by the company, many could not be employed by the large company. According to community perceptions, artisanal mining has been displaced vertiginously by large-scale emerald-mining projects [1
]. During the workshop, participants highlighted five dimensions in the SWOT, namely human, community/local, natural, economic and infrastructure (Table 1
). Communities stated persistently that there is “peace with hunger”—participants insisted throughout the workshop that the loss of livelihood options in a peaceful environment is creating unrest among community members.
The discussion showed that lack of trust, credibility and communication have undermined the current governance environment. It was found there is weak institutional governance at the local level to listen to the voices of local stakeholders, as well as lack of capacity and resources in the local government. The local government has not been able to provide locals with basic public services. Health, education and infrastructure remain pressing challenges at the local level. Major discomfort is also mainly due to the lack of job opportunities. In this regard a representative of the local government states:
“There is insufficient communication between us and the American mining company operating in Muzo. But we have managed to brainstorm some ideas and somehow collaborate for key initiatives in alignment with their social responsibility agenda. The local government has also encouraged the private sector to align with the local development plan. Otherwise, we will end up embarking on programs irrelevant for us. We hope the company helps us to provide locals with potable water. This is a huge challenge. We are also thinking of developing a tourism plan in collaboration with the American mining company. We want tourists to be able to access large mine sites and get a better understanding of emerald mining. Third, we are aiming at diversifying the economy through agriculture. However, we are very upset about this initiative because, the private company is not targeting communities adjacent to the mine site .”
With the arrival of the American mining company, artisanal mining communities are losing their only livelihood option gradually, but not being able to transition to other jobs. Tourism and agriculture have been identified as economic drivers; however, most of the artisanal miners have no other skills and there is no real commitment from the private sector or resources from the local government to move economic diversification forward. High dependency on mining for a long time and the unexpected arrival of the American mining company after Don Victor Carranza’s death left locals with limited time to plan for alternative livelihood options, a situation that is currently threatening sustainable community development.
Once the discussion ended, we agreed with participants to conduct some field research in the coming days to validate their perceptions at the focus group discussion. Early in the morning, we visited Minero River, where we had informal conversations with some “guaqueros”, another colloquial name for emerald artisanal miners. The guaqueros helped us understand past conflict dynamics and how they have impacted on community development and livelihoods.
The conflict in Muzo was labeled the “Green War” and took place in Minero River and surroundings under Don Victor Carranza’s leadership. His success and wealth were mainly due to an informal governance structure he built during the Green War. In partnership with “Los Patrones and Los Duros” his most trusted friends and colleagues accountable for looking after his business, Don Victor Carranza was able to build the largest emerald empire in Colombia. Los Duros had their own “secret agents” called “the birds”, covered agents for Don Victor Carranza. When someone was found with a non-reported emerald of value, the birds alerted Don Victor Carranza, who sent Los Duros to give “a lesson” to those found “guilty” (of disloyalty). Selected gemstones were given to Don Victor Carranza. Anything of value should be given to him to be sold in Bogota’s black market. Those who refused to sell anything of value or crossed the line according to Don Victor Carranza’s criteria were killed. Thousands of bodies were found killed at Minero River. Informal conversations with miners recalled stories of people swallowing emeralds to hide them from Los Duros. Unfortunately, people were often caught. Every single emerald should be found, even if it was swallowed by miners. Thousands of people were killed, kidnapped and disappeared during the Green War.
Guaqueros and “barequeros”, or artisanal miners, were actively involved in the “voladoras” an informal mining practice allowed by Don Victor Carranza to keep the good faith with artisanal miners, in which miners scavenged the remaining debris from emerald extraction. After Don Victor Carranza’s close workers had selected the best gemstones, residual ore deposits were thrown away at Minero River. This was a form of corporate philanthropy. Thousands of guaqueros and barequeros, originally from Muzo and surrounding regions, waited for days for the voladoras to occur. When they happened miners threw themselves into the Minero River to find “that” gemstone that was going to free them from poverty. Several guaqueros and barequeros were killed due to asphyxia or drowned in the Minero River. There was also conflict among artisanal miners for the sake for finding good stones. With the death of Don Victor Carranza and the arrival of the large-scale mining company, the voladoras were halted and the guaqueo informal mining practice declined notoriously, leading to unemployment and loss of income and livelihood options.
Once the field visit was finished at Minero River the research team headed to Mina Real, a local small-scale mine. On their way to the mine site, the research team stopped at “La Playa”, where emeralds have been traded informally over the years. Emerald trade in Muzo has also declined noticeably, locals stated. Due to the decline of artisanal and small-scale mining, Mina Real has embarked in a tourism project as part of their social responsibility agenda. There was a strong female presence in both administration and mining operations roles. Miners at Mina Real still perform an artisanal mining practice called “rebusque”. Individual miners or groups in agreement with the company are allowed to collect emeralds from the ore they mine, generating extra income for their families. This practice is not permitted at the multinational company operating in Muzo, another issue that is creating tensions at the local level.
After the visit at Mina Real, the research team visited the largest mine site in Muzo, owned by an American company. Once at the mine, researchers proceeded to conduct interviews with representatives from environment, social responsibility, production and certification offices. It was found that security levels at the mine site were incredibly high. The research team was informed that artisanal miners have built tunnels to reach the mine site and get residual deposits illegally. There are video cameras and trained security guards everywhere at the site. Geologists and trained miners who extract the ore are accompanied by “veedores” at all times to make sure that valuable emeralds are deposited in sealed bags taken later to the CEO’s office. There are also cameras filming all mining process led by a geologist. The remaining material is washed and then checked mainly by women to make sure there are no emeralds of value. The waste is deposited in safe places beyond the reach of guaqueros or informal miners to avoid the voladoras, whose material is now washed out by water jets through conveyors and the stones picked by collectors (who are former artisanal miners). The waste material is stored in a proper place inside the company area.
After finishing the field visit at the American mining company, the research team visited the property of Don Victor Carranza and talked to Don Chivitas, Don Victor Carranza’s reliable chef for years. At the “Muro de los Lamentos” a stone chair where Don Victor Carranza used to perform his philanthropic endeavors, the researchers heard first-hand stories about how Don Victor Carranza was able to create the emerald empire now owned by the multinational mining company. Locals remember Don Victor Carranza with respect and admiration. There was war with no hunger and it seems locals value this more than a peaceful environment without jobs.
On the researchers’ way back to Bogota, the message that resonated persistently in the researchers’ minds was “peace with hunger”. The research team communicated this in the second focus group discussion held in Bogota. Participants involved representatives at the regional and national levels of governance (government, private companies, academia and civil society representatives). The discussion was divided in two parts. In the first part of the findings at the community level were shared. Later, stakeholder discussion took place to identify existing community assets and priority areas for sustainable community development.
4.3. Perceptions at the Regional and National Levels of Governance
Surprisingly, there was an active participation of stakeholders at the highest level (for example, one director of the large company and one director of the Ministry of Mines), mostly from national level of governance, showing a high demand for such discussions. It was interesting to witness during workshops and focus groups how civil society organizations collaborated with business and government representatives as part of this exercise. The discussion focused mainly on existing priority areas at the community and government levels identified at the workshops. Evidence shows it is important that all relevant stakeholders take part in the implementation initiatives to address the identified government and community priority areas, so that they can create shared value, hopefully for all parties. However, these initiatives need to be planned carefully as locals feel these actions fail to tackle pressing issues, a situation that is also creating tension at the community level:
“Universities and government organizations have come here to provide us with capacity-building. But you know what they do. They get our signatures to show they did the job and get credit at our expense. We need something of value in Muzo. For example, productive projects that target single mothers, widows and the elderly” .
Interestingly, corporate representatives state they have delivered capacity-building programs for widows and single mothers in Muzo [35
]. This shows poor communication between the company and the community to address priority areas valuable for locals. Table 2
shows during the SWOT analysis how participants identified the issues in the human, community/local, natural, economic and infrastructure dimensions.
Findings show that capacity needs to be built mainly on human and community/local dimensions. According to stakeholders’ perceptions at the national and regional levels of governance, local mining communities are not equipped with the technical skills to engage with mining or other industries relevant for the local economy. However, at the local level, we found contradictory statements. On the one hand, locals argue they hold the necessary skills to embark in mining. Emerald mining is the only livelihood option they have had in years and they resist being taught something they strongly believe they are qualified at. On the other hand, they do agree with the regional and national levels of governance that miners need to build their skills to forge alternative livelihood options in tourism and agriculture. Capacity-building in entrepreneurship has also been identified as a priority area at the local level [1
]. Findings show that lack of skills and education at the community and government levels are jeopardizing stakeholders’ ability to foster sustainable community development. Therefore, skills need to be built on alternative livelihood options across the mining supply chain.
We focus on key stakeholders in the mining supply chain, particularly for barequeros. They are protected by law and should have a special treatment. Unfortunately, at the national level of governance, they have been forgotten, losing their only livelihood option. Other key stakeholders in the supply chain are local traders. However, the national government has not built capacity on them, so they can engage in sustainable supply practices [34
Findings from interviews also demonstrate there are dissimilar perceptions regarding the financial domain. At the regional and national levels of governance, stakeholders perceive this as an opportunity rather than a threat. It was stated that existing foreign investment and international reputation of the emerald-mining sector can promote sustainable community development. However, locals have divergent perceptions. There is a high dependency on artisanal mining, as most miners cannot have similar income with other activities and are not qualified to work in a large mine [36
]. They are aware of existing mining potential but they feel they have not been adequately compensated. Furthermore, emerald trade is located outside Muzo, leaving locals with limited or no gains coming from mining revenue:
“Some projects have been approved under the new royalty system. However, existing governance arrangement to access resources coming from mining revenues are difficult to access. When financial resources are allocated at the local level, they have already passed through so many hands that we got nothing at the end. We have proposed projects but usually our proposals have been thrown away. There is not an effective allocation of those resources” .
It was also identified that conflict has had adverse implications for Muzo’s social tissue. It will take time for mining communities to rebuild social cohesion in a postconflict stage. Stakeholders at all levels of governance agree there is lack of trust, communication, credibility, community participation in decision-making and equality. These issues derived from conflict are also reflected in corruption, illegal economic activities and poor governance. Institutional capacity to face these challenges in a postconflict scenario is pivotal to foster inclusive, sustainable development at the local level.