MAC: Mines and Communities

Renegotiate Contracts With Coal Multinationals And Don't Sign New Ones, Says Senator Robeldo

Published by MAC on 2007-01-15


Press statement from the office of Senator Robledo, 19 January 2007; translation is by Avi Chomsky of Salem State College, Massachusetts, USA.

The contracts between the Colombian government and Drummond, Glencore, and the owners of Cerrejon should be renegotiated because they contain provisions that are unfair and highly damaging to the national interest, stated Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo in the Public Hearing on "Coal, Mining, and Energy," called by the Colombian Senate that took place today (Friday, January 19) in the Capitol. Robledo also asked that no new contracts be signed until the damages caused by existing contracts with Cerrejon Zona Norte, El Paso, and Jagua de Ibirico in recent decades can be fully assessed.

The Polo Democratico spokesperson denounced the way that Colombian legislation has been modified to leave mining, hydrocarbons, and energy, in the hands of foreign capital. The situation is extremely serious, given that over half of Colombia's exports, over 9 billion dollars in 2005, came from that sector.

What will Colombia receive from its own non-renewable resources? It's a crucial question, Robledo said, because what you can see in La Guajira and Cesar is extreme poverty. According to a study by the National University, the State Take (what the government receives) from petroleum, 50.64%, is the worst in the world. Robledo also protested the fact that royalties on coal have been reduced from 15% to between 5 and 10%, which greatly reduces its cost (and benefit), while royalties on gold have been reduced to 4%. The country's mineral wealth is being given away to foreign investors, while the effective tax on big mining, once the exemptions are taken into account, is less than 5%, according to Fedesarrollo. There have been aberrant cases, the Senator declared, like when the DIAN [customs] returned 259 billion pesos to Drummond for the IVA [value-added tax, a form of sales tax].

The Congress promised to study the case of Cerrejon Zona Norte in depth. Cerrejon was sold very cheaply to the three multinationals that now own the complex. Robledo also called attention to the terrible health conditions in the open-pit coal mines, the frequent work accidents, and the use of subcontracting to avoid labor protections and perpetuate low wages.

He said that after working for 38 years for Exxon, the first thing that Hernan Martinez did upon taking up the position of Minister of Mines last summer was to propose the privatization of Ecopetrol. "Dr. Hernan Martinez is not Colombia's Minister of Mines, he is foreign capital's Minister of Mines."

Robledo concluded by affirming that he will continue the struggle for the defense of national interests. "This is a democratic political and economic battle, and we invite Colombians of all political positions to join us to save our country," he concluded. It is not a question of eliminating contracts with foreign capital, he concluded, but rather that we negotiate contracts that serve our national interest.

You can listen to Senator Robledo's comments (in Spanish) by following this link:

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