In this work, the particularities of natural resource wealth are the building blocks for the theoretical identification of some challenges faced by national governments in relation to extractive activities. Such challenges are later on unfolded from the perspective of overlapping claims on both environmental sustainability and social justice. The discussion here presented travels between different spatial, institutional and temporal scales, and particularly from the national to the regional (sub-national) levels. In order to observe how some of the challenges of extractive activities are manifested in practice, the case of La Colosa, an intended gold mining venture in the Colombian Andean region, is addressed. This work exposes some relevant tasks that the Colombian government has to undertake if the economic growth of the country is to be based on natural resources exploitation. In regards to long-term provision of environmental goods and services, the analysis done in this work allows the identification of tensions between the mining interests and the need to protect environmental functions related to the availability and quality of land and water resources. These tensions are aggravated by the existence of disjointed institutions and policies at the national level as well as between regional and national scales. So as to the achievement of social justice, this analysis reveals how the national interest on extractive activities for economic growth need to be not superimposed on, but harmonised with regional interests on natural resources for environmental functionality and local livelihoods, so as to avoid a systematic misrecognition of population’s needs and rights. Misaddressing this challenge conduces local entities to the necessary search of other avenues for claiming their recognition and participation. In this second stage, there is an additional need to ensure the security, effectiveness and legitimacy of participatory spaces that, if overshadowed by particular interests, may end up further reproducing the misrecognition patterns, exhausting the avenues for assertive claiming and even triggering conflict.