Canadian law professor comments on second term as Special Rapporteur, the Cerrejón mine in Colombia and more

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 26, Geneva Solutions reported: “The UN Human Rights Council renewed this week the mandate of the special rapporteur on human rights and the environment.”

“All the way from Vancouver, over Zoom, David Boyd conveys how excited he is to be able to carry on with what he considers ‘a labour of love’.”

“The Canadian environmental lawyer who teaches at the University of British Columbia, has been highly critical about governments not protecting their citizens from the harmful effects of pollution, climate change and other environmental challenges.”

The right to a healthy environment

In the article, Boyd comments: “The critical test will be: will the Human Rights Council respond to the global environmental crisis by passing a resolution, recognizing the right to a healthy environment? This is a right that has been discussed at UN human rights bodies for 25 years. And there’s no more reasons for delay.”

He further notes that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the resolution being passed by the Human Rights Council this coming September.

The Cerrejón mine in Colombia

Boyd also says: “I’m in hot water with the Government of Colombia right now because of a communication related to a massive open pit mine that has been damaging the human rights of the Wayuu indigenous people in Colombia for decades.”

“It absolutely boggles my mind that you can have a massive extractive operation that has produced billions of dollars in wealth for private investors and for the government of Colombia and right next door you have indigenous people who are living some of the most extreme poverty that I’ve witnessed in my life.”

He adds: “That was a message not taken kindly by the companies or the government but those are situations that need to be highlighted and international attention will hopefully result in changes that advance the situation.”

The Bogotá-based José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) has highlighted the impacts of the mine on the human right to water and noted: “The impact of the mining operation in the dramatic transformations of the water system of [Wayuu] territory in the last 30 years is undeniable.”

PBI-Colombia accompanies CCAJAR.

Numerous groups in Canada including the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network and MiningWatch Canada have drawn attention to the fact that NB Power has been buying approximately 500,000 tonnes of coal from Cerrejón since the mid-1990s. Nova Scotia Power also imports coal from Cerrejón.

Fracking in Colombia

In November 2015, Tracy Glynn from NB Media Co-op reported: “Exxon-Mobil and the National Colombian Mining Company started the Cerrejón mine in 1982.”

ExxonMobil is now also seeking a contract to conduct a fracking pilot project near Puerto Wilches, Santander in Colombia. While little information has been publicly released about their application, it may relate to the VMM-37 block in partnership with Toronto-based Sintana Energy (see graphic below). The contract is expected to be awarded by the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) on Wednesday April 8.

On January 29 of this year, El Tiempo reported: “United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, David Boyd, mentioned that the Colombian government ‘must pass a law to prohibit fracking’.”

The 8-minute video of Boyd’s presentation on this can be seen here.

PBI-Colombia accompanies the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) and other organizations opposed to fracking and has highlighted the threats faced by environmental defenders opposed to fracking in the Magdalena Medio region.

Graphic by Podion.

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