Legal threats, not war, top commodity producers' concerns in Colombia

martes 11 de octubre de 2016 10:00 GYT

By Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra

CAJAMARCA, Colombia Oct 11 (Reuters) - Gold mining companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars but not extracted a gram. Palm farmers are told their land belongs to someone else. Some communities are voting to ban mining in areas already awarded for exploration.

Whether or not President Juan Manuel Santos can salvage a peace deal with Marxist rebels that was rejected by voters on Oct. 2, legal roadblocks and high taxes are a major deterrent for companies looking to invest in Colombia.

Santos says ending Latin America's longest-running conflict would open up vast areas of land to development, reduce corporate security costs and bring additional growth of up to 1.5 percent a year.

Since voters narrowly rejected the deal, Santos has scrambled to extend a ceasefire with the rebels and meet with opposition figures in a bid to find common ground and resurrect hopes of a negotiated end to the 52-year war.

But even companies eager to explore former conflict zones say other worries are more pressing.

Many are wary of recent court decisions banning exploration on land already awarded in concessions and giving local authorities greater power to reject mining projects. For others, high corporate taxes are a damper.

"It's useless to have a post-conflict window of opportunity if our neighbors have half the tax rate we do and if 30-year contracts are signed and then the conditions change," said Santiago Angel, head of Colombia's mining association.

Analysts calculate many businesses in Colombia pay over 50 percent tax, compared with 27 percent in Peru and 25 percent in Chile.   Continuación...