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Compromising economic development and environmental quality: mining activities in Colombia

Today I was meeting with Xoaquin Serxio Perez, a colleague who is working on his postdoc at IGN (Department of Geoscience and natural resource Management, University of Copenhagen). We set up a collaboration on his research, regarding economic geography, with a support of remote sensing from Alexander's team, where I am aligned with.

It was quite a while I haven't been involved in field work and local studies. Xoaquin's intrigue did remind me what is a human geographer like.

Colombia is one of the biggest coal exporting countries, following Australia, Indonesia, Russia, and the U.S. Around 50% of the GDP in Colombia comes from coal industry. There are capitals, and conflicts revolving the industry development. The main arguments here are:

(1) who dominates the market? Producer in coal-producing countries or the consumer in Europe? and

(2) who gains economic benefit, while at the expense of whose environment? The people from the port Santa Marta, where coal exported, along the trainline, where it transported, or close to the mining?

He supposed that the local people in Cesar municipality (close to La loma) are not benefited from the mining activities, as those who gain a mining job are mostly commuting from other places. At the meanwhile, the pollution of mining activities, and noise with shaking from coal transportation have been perceived by those who are not benefited. He played a video of a train, which consists 164 wagons, passing by a village, shaking houses 10 meter away from the track. And this has appeared frequently, around every 10 minutes.

If, as he hypothesized, the mining industry did not contribute to the local economy, what else impacts on the development, from other perspectives, could be? For instance, has the settlements grown because of the industry? Has the infrastructure, such as lighting, installed given to the mining policy? This is what we are going to analyze. We will identify the trend of nighttime light to track regional development, and in turns, understand the effects of mining industry at different scales. We expect to conduct the work after Xoaquin's field survey, by the end of this year.

Nighttime light in Northern Colombia

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