Protests continue against licence for COLCCO open-pit coal mine in Santander, Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo by Oscar Sampayo.

On January 16, the Movimiento Nacional Ambiental tweeted: “8th day of demonstrations at the El Oponcito junction, in the town of El Centro de B/meja, where communities and social organizations from the Chucura region demand that the @CAS repeal the mining environmental license for the Colcco company.”

The news agency Colombia Informa also now reports on the “several days of protests against the granting of licenses that would allow the company COLCCO S.A. to carry out open-pit coal mining for 30 years.”

Their article continues: “The citizens explain that they will maintain the demonstration permanently until the environmental authorities, the departmental government of Santander and the national government revoke the environmental license FLL-082 approved last August 2022 by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Santander (CAS) to the company COLCCO for the exploitation of open-pit coal mining.”

“For several months the inhabitants of the region have been carrying out different peaceful actions warning about the damage that the coal mining project will bring. According to the Alliance Colombia Free of Fracking, coal is the dirtiest energy and contributes to the increase in greenhouse gases and, therefore, aggravates the climate crisis.”

Notably, the article highlights: “Meanwhile, citizens denounced that the paramilitaries of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) threatened the communities that have been demonstrating against the mining license granted to COLCCO by the CAS.”

Colombian coal exports to Europe and Canada

In June 2022, reported: “[Colombia’s Diego Mesa said at the PDAC mining convention in Toronto that] Colombia has also increased its coal exports to the Netherlands, Spain and Canada since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

In August 2022, France 24 reported: “Germany is planning to buy more coal from Colombia amid Western sanctions on the Russian energy sector. Mining company officials say El Cerrejon has no negative environmental impact.”

And in December 2022, SOMO posted: “Until recently, most coal [used in Europe] came from Russia, but since the boycott of Russian energy sources, European demand for coal from other countries, such as Colombia, has skyrocketed to 7 million tons (37 percent increase), almost as much as in 2017. Of that, 2 million tons are imported from the conflict-ridden northern mining region of Cesar, four times as much as last year. Meanwhile, no one is talking about the human rights implications.”

The two companies that import Colombian coal into Canada are: Nova Scotia Power (NSP) and New Brunswick Power (NBP).

Nova Scotia

In 2007, Nova Scotia Power imported 1.4 million tons of coal from Colombia, most of which came from the El Cerrejon mine. Nova Scotia Power has refused to name the other source of the coal that it imports from Colombia.

In 2008, Chris Arsenault, then at the University of British Columbia, commented that El Cerrejon mine officials admitted to employing “private vigilantes” to secure the mine.

In December 2015, Colombian union activist and lawyer Francisco Ramirez Cuellar said the coal exported to Nova Scotia is “drenched in blood.”

New Brunswick

As of 2006, about 16 per cent of New Brunswick’s electricity came from coal mined in Colombia.

In October 2021, CBC reported that New Brunswick Power “imports the fuel by ship, mostly from Colombia” and that it’s not worried about spiking coal prices because “we have a fixed contract on supply until 2024.”

The power plant that burns the coal from Colombia is scheduled to be closed in 2030 but has sought an extension to 2040.

Global Affairs Canada now notes: “Imports from Colombia reached $1.3 billion in 2021 and included most notably petroleum and coal products, coffee, and cut flowers and bulbs.”

The PBI-Colombia accompanied José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) has spoken against the El Cerrejon coal mine.

Rosa Maria Mateus Parra, a lawyer with 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.”

Photo: PBI-Canada met with Mateus Parra in Bogota on July 5, 2022 to discuss Canadian imports of coal from the El Cerrejon mine.

In July 2022, Deutsche Welle reported: “Outgoing President Ivan Duque has set plans in motion to expand the controversial El Cerrejon open-pit coal mine.”

We continue to follow this situation.

Categories: News Updates


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