Glencore calls on Colombian police to remove Indigenous and Afro-descendant blockades at Cerrejón coal mine

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo by Indepaz.

On September 3, the London Mining Network tweeted: “Glencore has called on the police to remove protesters within 72 hours. Glencore needs to listen to the protesters and engage in dialogue, not repression.”

El Universal had previously reported: “Cerrejón asked the relevant authorities for the necessary actions ‘to be able to recover the normality of our operation’.”

El Cerrejon

Deutsche Welle has reported: “El Cerrejon is the biggest open-cast coal mine in Latin America, and one of the biggest in the world. It sprawls across more than 69,000 hectares, an area the size of 100 soccer fields, and gulps down 30 million litres of water every day in the barren semi-desert of Colombia’s second-poorest department, La Guajira.”

The Deutsche Welle article further notes: “Around 5,000 Wayuu children have died of starvation and thirst in the region around the mine.”

Rosa Maria Mateus Parra, a lawyer with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), explains: “It’s caused by the shortage of water, because rivers and streams are contaminated, or have dried. And the lack of food because coal is now mined where indigenous communities grew their vegetables. Those children who survive have skin rashes and respiratory diseases because of the fine particle pollution.”

She adds: “We’ve proved all of this in court.”

The blockade

Two days ago, the London Mining Network also posted: “Wayuú and Afro-descendant communities, resettled and historically affected by the Cerrejón Limited open-pit coal mine, decided to block the southern part of the mining operation in La Guajira due to the non-compliance of Cerrejón Limited, today, September 1, 2022.”

They explain that the communities decided to begin the blockade “due to non-compliance with the agreements established with the resettled communities on issues such as access to water, in addition to issues related with the violation of ethnic rights in the municipality of Barrancas and the department of La Guajira due to the impacts of coal mining.”

The London Mining Network further notes: “The communities demand the presence of delegates from Glencore, the Swiss-based multinational mining company that owns the mine, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of the Environment, to reach an agreed solution.”

Still from Twitter video at one of the blockades.

Twitter video: “The only thing that coal exploitation has brought us is pollution, environmental damage, health damage, socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual damage… @CerrejonCol the only thing it has brought us is death” Jairo Fuentes – Governor’s Council of the Wayúu Reservation of Tamaquito II

Contagio Radio has also reported that the blockade began “because of the breaches by the mining company and the Colombian State to Judgment T-704 of 2016 and to another series of agreements that had been made in previous months.”

Prensa Latina further explains: “The demonstrators seek to discuss breaches of Sentence T-704, through which the Constitutional Court ordered the National Environmental Licensing Authority to review whether the comprehensive environmental management plan of the entire mining project is sufficient to counteract pollution, among other aspects.”

Calls to close the mine

In 2020, CCAJAR asked Vancouver Island-based UN Special Rapporteur David R. Boyd to call for “an immediate suspension of the mining operations of Cerrejón” and “in accordance with its Paris Agreement obligations, relevant in order to guarantee the human rights of the Wayuu people, the Colombian State should gradually eradicate coal mining.”

CCAJAR further 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.”

Then in 2021, CCAJAR helped launch a constitutional action seeking the fulfilment of the right to participation for communities affected by the mine.

Their media statement explains: “The tutela action is a constitutional mechanism which allows any person to claim immediate judicial protection of their fundamental rights before a judge, at any time and in any place.”

It added: “These communities have suffered serious violations of human rights, affecting their right to a decent life, to water, to health, to food security and sovereignty, to information, to participation and to free prior and informed consent, among others.”

Exports from El Cerrejon to Canada

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

We continue to follow this situation.

PBI-Colombia has accompanied CCAJAR since 1995.

On July 5, Javier Garate (PBI-Colombia) and Brent Patterson (PBI-Canada) met with CCAJAR lawyer Rosa Maria Mateus at her office in Bogota.

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