BOGOTA, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A Colombian tribunal ordered the government on Friday to suspend the awarding of mining licenses until it establishes protected areas, while the mines and energy ministry said it would appeal against the decision.
The ruling by a tribunal in Cundinamarca province is the latest headache for miners in Colombia, where a series of referendums to ban mining led to the closure of at least one major project. The constitutional court then said the votes could not stop projects.
The Andean country has reserves of coal, gold, emeralds and nickel, but is looking to expand licensing to other minerals like copper.
The decision was a response to a suit brought in 2013 by leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda, among others, and said all Colombians have a collective right to a healthy environment.
The environment ministry has three years to use scientific studies to delineate wetlands, natural parks and other ecologically delicate areas, the ruling said.
The ruling will force the government to "get its house in order," Cepeda said.
The mining ministry and the national mining agency will appeal against the decision, the ministry said in a statement.
An appeal means "the decision of the tribunal is not firm until the council of state resolves the appeal," the statement said, adding that licensing will continue to function. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Paul Tait)