Swedish Report on Cerrejon : https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/Kol_rapport_FS_04.pdf
Source for this translation : Spanish Answer from Cerrejon to Swedish Report :https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/Comentarios%20Cerrejón%20a%20informe%20Forum%20Syd.pdf
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
COMMENTARY BY CERREJON ON THE SYD FORUM REPORT,
“AS BLACK AS COAL”
Cerrejón is grateful to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) for the opportunity to comment on the report entitled As Black As Coal, published by the organization Forum Syd. We appreciate the fact that this organization has visited La Guajira, has met with some of the members of the communities, and has experienced at first hand the challenges that exist in the province of La Guajira Colombia, where Cerrejón’s activities are carried out. We also appreciate the interest in approaching officials of Cerrejón before the publication of the report, but, we regret that the extensive information that they furnished was not included in a balanced way in this study. On the contrary, priority was given to opinions and accusations by third parties without scientific basis, and to generalizations and information taken out of context.
Cerrejón is a company that respects Colombian law. It has been characterized by developing its operation according to the highest social and environmental standards. In addition to other standards in the areas of labor, environment, and community, Cerrejón has adopted the United Nations Guiding Principles for companies and human rights and it relies on a model of due diligence in human rights. That has as its mission to identify, prevent, mitigate, and compensate for its impacts.
That is why we consider it necessary to make the following clarifications:
• The accusations about the effects of air and water contamination on the health of communities are not true.
* Cerrejón relies on an Environmental Management Program, implemented ever since the beginning of mining activity. It constantly monitors air and water quality and it uses control measures to prevent, mitigate and compensate for potential environmental impacts of its operations.
• Control measures include permanent irrigation of the waste and coal hauling routes with low quality water (not suitable for human or animal consumption or agricultural use), using 37 tank trucks, each with a 20,000-gallon capacity, and four with a 10,000-gallon capacity. In addition there are other measures, such as the use of fog cannons and additives to control the dust.
• Cerrejón has 18 sampling stations for TSP and PM10 (particulate matter) to monitor air quality and to check on the systems for control of emissions. They are located in the neighboring communities. There is also a committee to oversee air quality. The committee is made up of members of the communities, representatives of governmental agencies, of La Guajira University, Barrancas Hospital and Corpoguajira (Guajira Autonomous Regional Corporation).
• In the cases where the climate has been very dry, as has been the case in the last few months of extreme drought, Cerrejón has reduced its operation at various work sites, demonstrating its respect for the environment and for the neighboring communities.
• The majority of the water used for Cerrejón operations is water of low quality, used to spray the roads as a means of environmental mitigation to control the levels of dust in the air. This water is not suitable for human or animal consumption or for agricultural use.
• In the last seven years we have reduced intake of high quality water (going from 41% to 7%). At the end of 2015, 93% of the water used by Cerrejón was of low quality and only 7% was of high quality.
• In 2015 Cerrejón used only 11% of the total water intake from the Ranchería River permitted by the Guajira Autonomous Regional Corporation (Corpoguajira).
• Cerrejón carries out periodic monitoring of water quality. Every year, we take to the laboratory more than 4,000 samples of water from different points in the river. The Cerrejón laboratory uses US Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. It is accredited under Standard ISO NTC (Colombia Technical Standards) 17025: 2005.
• Cerrejón carries out monthly measures of the seawater in Puerto Bolívar to verify the effectiveness of its methods of control in the Port.
• Regarding the water shortage in La Guajira:
• La Guajira is a semi-arid region with a major desert area.
• Large farms use the majority of the water released by the El Cercado dam into the Ranchería River before it reaches Cerrejón. Because of this situation and the extreme drought in the last few months, Cerrejón is getting water for the use of its employees, contactors and their families from wells of the river’s alluvial aquifer, as permitted by Corpoguajira.
• Cerrejón admits that access to water is difficult in this region. For that reason it outlined programs dedicated to supporting the communities when it created the Cerrejón Water Foundation in 2008, and it implemented programs for providing water, strengthening the governance of the water supply and protecting watersheds. Cerrejón has invested more than 1.3 million dollars in these programs since 2014.
• Responding to the emergency in La Guajira because of the extreme drought, since 2014, 353 communities (44,100 people) have benefited from:
* Distribution of more than 42 million liters of water furnished to 216 communities (24,000 people)
* Repairing 68 windmills that furnish 2.9 million liters of water per day and benefit 57 communities
* Furnishing 1,249 tanks for water storage in 196 communities
* Building 16 earthen dikes to enclose ponds and repairing 13
* Installing 47 solar and manual pumps for extracting water
• The resettled communities have had access to water since their resettlement
* Every one of the five communities in the process of resettlement has had access to water from deep wells or through the distribution of water by tank cars during the period of the drought. The communities have received more than 200 liters of water per person every day (double the minimum amount per person prescribed by the World Health Organization (OMS is the Spanish acronym)).
* For the communities of Patilla, Chancleta, Roche and Las Casitas, Cerrejón built a water intake that takes water from the Ranchería River and carries it to a treatment plant so that it will be fit for human consumption and also for the agricultural production projects located on the jointly owned lots. This project is expected to be ready to operate in August of 2016.
* The indigenous community resettled from Tamaquito has three underground water sources. At the community’s request the well that furnishes water for human consumption was changed, as the community prefers the quality of the well built in 2014. The new pipeline has been built and they are carrying out the tests of the treatment plant.
* Since the commencement of the extreme drought, Cerrejón has furnished 33,000 liters of water in tank cars every week.
• Regarding accusations of the disappearance of bodies of water in La Guajira, we want to make clear that in 2002 Cerrejón altered the course of the stream known as Tabaco and in 1991 altered the course of the stream known as Aguas Blancas. The environmental authorities approved both projects and both are well preserved and continue to flow into the Ranchería River.
• Regarding accusations of failure to consult with the communities:
• Cerrejón respects Colombian law and the social standards related to free and informed prior consultation.
• It is true that prior consultation processes were not carried out in the’70’s and ‘80’s because at that time there was no legislation or any standards for the processes. We have explained publicly the difficulties and limitations in applying it retroactively. However, the negotiations carried out at the beginning of the operation were conducted in good faith.
• Resettlements are always a measure of last resort and they are carried out under International Financial Corporation (CFI is the Spanish acronym.) standards:
• Cerrejón considers resettlements as a measure of last resort, necessary to avoid impacts on neighboring communities. It also recognizes that resettlements generate important impacts on the people and for that reason it carries them out according to recognized international guidelines that define the participation procedures and the delivery of compensation packages according to the impacts, so the people can re-establish their lives in new settlements.
• The report’s recommendation on the payment of compensation to resettled communities is carried out to the letter. Unfortunately, the report does not mention that the compensation package offered by Cerrejón is comprehensive and was agreed upon with the families so as to achieve an improvement in the quality of life for the families. The package includes:
* Payment of 250% of the value of the properties and improvements;
* Payment for special impacts for every family;
* A new residence with access to public services and a notarially recorded instrument;
* Seed capital for the development of a productive project chosen by each family, plus consultation;
* Access to educational programs;
* One hectare of land in a jointly owned lot for agricultural production projects and additional land for families who own more cattle;
* Economic support for elderly adults for a period of ten years;
* Community installations: sports fields, community centers, a church, a health center;
* Psychosocial support before, during and after the move;
* Technical assistance for higher education (university or technical school) for resettled family members.
* The location of the new villages, as well as the kinds of housing, town planning and construction materials were agreed upon with the communities. Nothing was imposed in the planning of the communities. We knows that there have been imperfections in some of the housing and we are working with the communities to resolve that and to plan for repairs to be carried out jointly;
* Regarding the reference to lack of education and employment, it’s important to mention that education for children and youth is included within the compensation package. That has resulted in an improvement in school attendance and the payment for university or technical studies for family members in any institution in the country. At present there are 185 members of resettled families who have benefited from the educational assistance offered by the company, an average of more than one per family, and 113 people are receiving aid from Cerrejón for their university or technical education.
* We agree with the report in that it states that the resettlements should offer every opportunity for the transferred families to obtain better living conditions in their new setting. Because of that, we take periodic measurements of quality of life, based on the United Nations Development Program (PNUD is the Spanish Acronym.) Multidimensional Poverty Index. These have shown that the access to decent housing, public services that they did not have previously, education and health are fundamental factors that contribute to an improved quality of life.
* Regarding the comments made by the resettled families who have returned to their original sites, at this time four families from Patilla have made use of the lots that remain in their prior site, out of 93 who have moved to new locations. Even though they claim that Cerrejón has not kept all it promises, the company has delivered all of the damages and compensation agreed upon.
* We understand that the sustainability of the families is an important goal, before and after their move. We have been working for the improvement of accompaniment and of the production projects, but it’s evident that the success of projects for generation of income presents challenges all over the world and requires the will and the active participation by the resettled families.
* At present there are 101 active production projects in different stages of implementation and 40 projects that are inactive. Forty-three percent of the projects that are functioning are agricultural, 25% are commercial and service, and 31% are in real estate investment.
* In 2015, at the request of representatives of the resettled communities, the local organization Competitive Guajira was hired to evaluate the productive projects, with the participation of the resettled families. The results of the study showed that the main causes of the difficulties facing the successful development of the projects were the deficiencies in the business plan, such as the family’s lack of know-how and focus. The evaluator’s recommendations were to promote associative processes, strengthen follow-up, establish alliances with public and private entities, and develop procedures for psychosocial accompaniment for the families.
* Support for the collective projects is advancing in the communities of Las Casitas and Tamaquito II. The implementation of the recommendations has been slow with Patilla, Chancleta and Roche, where leaders are working on defining the plans under consideration to generate income.
* In 2008, the current owners of Cerrejón requested the creation of an independent panel to evaluate the case of the Tabaco community and other subjects related to the social performance of the company. This panel recommended the adoption of social standards, along with contribution to the reunification of this town. Its construction is the responsibility of Hatonuevo Municipality, according to a decision by the Supreme Court of Justice.
* At the same time, the company and the members of this community agreed on the payment of additional damages to the families, and these payments were made in 2008.
* In order to contribute to the reunification of Tabaco, Cerrejón promised to purchase land chosen by the community. The property known as La Cruz was purchased by Cerrejón and turned over to the Municipality. The company is also committed to the construction of a community center in the new town, which will be paid for once the Municipality starts construction.
* After internal differences in the community about the location of the construction of the down and delays by the local authorities, there was significant progress last year for the reconstruction of the town. The Mayor of Hatonuevo has named a manager to take charge of the project, the Committee for the Relocation of Tabaco has been reactivated, and work is being done on a baseline survey for the community.
• The projected diversion of the stream known as Bruno is supported by solid studies that guarantee its technical and social viability.
* The project to widen the La Puente quarry, which requires the diversion of 3.6 kilometers of the stream known as Bruno, located 700 meters to the north, is the result of studies made by Colombian and international experts. Unlike projects for the diversion where the water is canalized, this innovative environmental engineering project seeks to reproduce the stream conditions (meanders, inclines, flora and fauna, etc.) with the purpose of assuring the continuity of the dynamic of all of the ecosystems.
* Cerrejón has complied with all the requirements of Colombian legislation ever since the project was first presented in 1998 and later when it was joined with the Integrated Environmental Management Plan in 2005.
* The work required will be done in waters below the stream, close to where it flows into the Ranchería River. Because of that, the communities that live near and use the upstream water will not be affected.
* Neither will the urban population in the Municipality of Albania will be affected because this stream does not feed the municipal aqueduct. If that is needed in the future, that can be done.
* Because there will be an impact on the volume of water during winter and summer, environmental authorities have noted the necessity to make compensation plans focused on protecting the high and medium levels of the stream basin. The International Conservation Organization will implement the plans.
* Regarding the prior consultation carried out for this project, the Interior Ministry established that the consultation was only necessary with the indigenous community of Campo Herrera, located in the lower part of the stream bed. The prior consultation process was carried out rigorously and with the participation of the community and they arrived at agreements that will be implemented with the development of the project.
* The La Guajira Superior Court issued a decision in June 2016 in a civil rights case brought by the indigenous community of La Horqueta 2 (located 4.7 kilometers from the affected areas). The decision orders the suspension of the permits issued by Corpoguajira until the Interior Ministry determines whether additional prior consultations are necessary. We have complied with the decision and we await the Ministry’s decision. However, the company has appealed the decision because it has taken all of the steps that are required by applicable law.
* We understand that there are some communities or groups that oppose the carrying out of the project, but we do not agree with the statement that there is massive opposition to it.
* In addition to the prior consultation, the project has been discussed with more than 13,000 people, including communities and local, regional, and national authorities, NGO’s, media, and more.