Cerrejón is the largest open pit mine in Latin America, and is located near indigenous communities.

EFE, EL TIEMPO, September 28, 2020


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Environmental and Human Rights, David Boyd, today recommended to Colombia that it suspend at least some of the operations in El Cerrejón, one of the largest coal mines in the world, because of its damage to the environment and to Indigenous minorities in the area.

“I am calling on Colombia to implement the directives of its own Constitutional Court to protect the vulnerable Wayúu community,” stated the expert, referring to the principal Indigenous community in the country.

Boyd explained that this is especially important in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and he emphasized that, at the least, they ought to consider ceasing operations in the area of Tajo Patilla, near the Indigenous area of Provincial.

The Rapporteur recalled that the people that live in areas with high levels of atmospheric contamination run a greater risk of damage to their health in the current pandemic. A court order issued in December 2019 urged Colombian authorities and the owners of the El Cerrejón mine to reduce the emissions from the operation, because the court found that the emissions had caused harm to the health of the Indigenous people in Provincial by contaminating the air, the water, and the vegetation.

Even though EL TIEMPO consulted the Ministry of the Environment, the National Authority for Environmental Licenses, and the Ministry of Mines and Energy about the declarations by the Rapporteur, there were no responses.

Meanwhile, in a press release, Cerrejón rejected Rapporteur Boyd’s statements, and insisted that, even though it had received a request for information from the United Nations about those effects, it was in the process of preparing its position.

It also insisted that, even though it’s true that there are effects, it is committed to respect the environment and the neighboring communities. “We are working hard to improve the due diligence procedures by seeking to identify, prevent, and mitigate the impacts generated by our operation, and to compensate when that is necessary.”

And they add that they indeed have complied with the order by the Constitutional Court: they have installed 16 air quality-monitoring stations (eleven in the mine, two on the railroad line, and three in Puerto Bolívar). In addition, they add: “Cerrejón maintains a fluid and respectful dialog with the community of Provincial, which has expressed its desire to maintain a direct dialog with the company on compliance with the decisions.”

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