“Everyone covers their eyes and only see the earning”, this is the testimony of the inhabitants of El Peñón – Santander, who see with great concern the letter directed to the mayor on March 8th 2016 from the National Miner Agency; this notification arrives in the hands of Francisco Jesus Cruz Guiza mayor of the municipality, in which he is informed to his office that the first exploration studies will begin to carry out mining activities in the territory in the 30 days following the notified date Speleologist Jesús Fernández Auderset of Swiss-Spanish origin arrives in Colombia in 2009 to focus his research on the exploration and study of karst systems in the area of the department of Santander.
Karstic systems are regions of calcium carbonate stones where an exotic variety of underground wildlife is found and also giant caverns whose formation could date back thousands of millions of years; according to superficial studies that have been done, "speleotemas" grow about 3 cm every 100 to 150 years. This could determine the geological time of the construction of the planet. So Jesus, The Humboldt Institute and The National University, are looking for ways to stop any mining activity in the area.
During the 8 years that Jesus has been carrying out his studies he managed to explore 56 caverns in a territory that approaches the 70 km, of which only 5 km of the perimeter have been explored thus exposing that there is a great variety of karstic ecosystems that haven ́t been discovered yet. Due to the Colombian State's lack of knowledge about these discoveries and the fragility of these kartic systems, Jesus says that "The use of explosives could be devastating because of the micro- loads used in mining, generate internal vibrations so strong that it could not only destroy the entrance to these caverns but also to destroy all their "speleotemas" together with its fauna “.
Jesus expresses that "for more than 40 years, these explorations have been closed because of the armed conflict", but thanks to the peace process in Colombia they have been able to make the mobilization through mountainous regions of the territory with more freedom.
Luz Marina Galeano victim of violence by the paramilitaries fears that due to the mining exploitation the progress of the peace process will be broken and armed groups will return to the municipality of El Peñón; However, rumors are known offered by the police command of the municipality that in the inspection of Rio Blanco located a few kilometers away from village, there is lack of security and that only can be acceded to the place by accompaniment of the army. Informs of the CTI to the mayoralty report fighting against paramilitary groups where two of its members are discharged in 2015 in the sector of Río Blanco, this information is made known by Alfonso Enrique Sánchez Vargas, mayoral officer, director of the house of culture, who also says that "behind the mining are always armed groups, this is a repeated sequel of what happens in the territories where the miner exploitation arrives."
Alfonso also points out that one of the greatest effects of mining exploitation would be the expropriation of lands by mining multinationals to owners who lack the title deeds of their lands, which would result in the displacement of the inhabitants re-victimizing the population.
El Peñón is a territory of great hydric importance since it has water deposits that comprise from the low Magdalena, Landasurí and Cimitarra, as well as the paramo of Santurbán, is an area of archaeological wealth because in some caverns have been found remains of what was an indigenous cemetery. This area is also protected by the second law of 1958 as a nature reserve.
The tough and self-managed work that Jesus has been able to build demonstrates with great detail that these ecosystems must be protected not only because they safeguard a diversity of mysteries that have not yet been explored but also are the historical heritage of our country. It is also worth highlighting that these new studies that emerge if mining is avoided could become the key for future research on pre-historic origins of the territory.