A Colombian Centre of Excellence in Extractives - feasibility study underway

4 Jul 2018

In May 2018, SMI completed an 18-month project to support the planning of a Centre of Excellence in Extractives (CEE) for Colombia.

This project was led by Professor Neil McIntyre, Professor David Ian Cliff and Professor Saleem Ali of UQ-SMI. Working closely with their Colombia partners, Los Andes University, the UQ-SMI team has advised the Colombian government, industry and research community on the scientific and administrative pathway towards a national research centre. Professor McIntyre explains “Developing its large-scale mining industry is an economic priority for Colombia, however there is a deep distrust in the industry’s ability to do this in a sustainable manner that respects Colombia’s natural and cultural values. A well-funded national research centre could provide a science-driven voice on where and how mining should occur in Colombia. This has been under discussion for several years, but the COALAR project has allowed UQ to put new impetus into the effort”.

The project was initiated with an MOU between UQ-SMI and Los Andes University in Bogota, committing to a partnership to support planning of a CEE and pilot projects. Three sets of meetings with universities, mining industry and government representatives have been held in Bogota; and two pilot projects have been delivered as initial demonstrations of the scientific contributions to development questions that university partnerships can offer. As well as by the COALAR program and Los Andes University, the project has been supported by the Australian Embassy in Bogota, the Colombian Embassy in Canberra, the Colombian Ministry of Mines, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Colombian Mining Association and the private sector in Australia.

The project identified the CEIBA Foundation in Colombia as the most suitable group to take the plans forward. CEIBA is now undertaking a formal feasibility study to define the next steps for developing the CEE with a view to a long-term partnership with UQ-SMI. Although the COALAR project has met its goals, Professor McIntyre notes that UQ-SMI still has an important role to play: “A challenge in Colombia is developing and maintaining confidence that universities will address the research challenges of the mining industry and its stakeholder groups while maintaining scientific integrity. UQ-SMI now has a role to advise on designing a CEE and delivering projects in ways that meet this challenge”

Outputs of the science pilot projects

McIntyre N, Angarita Vargas MF, Fernandez Acosta N, Camacho Botero LA, Jillian Pearse J, Huguet C, Restrepo Baena OJ, Ossa Moreno JS. 2018. A framework for assessing the impacts of mining development on regional water resources in Colombia. Water 10 (3), 268. https://doi.org/10.3390/w10030268

Isabel B. Franco, Jose A. Puppim de Oliveira and Saleem H. Ali. Peace with Hunger: Colombia’s Checkered Experience with Post-Conflict Sustainable Community Development in Emerald-Mining Regions. Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 504; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020504


This project is supported by: the Australian Government through the Council on Latin American Relations (COALAR) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Vicerrectoría de Investigaciones, University of Los Andes; and the Australian Research Council through the Future Fellowship of Neil McIntyre, FT140100977.