MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2006-09-06


New Brunswick groups ask candidates to take a stand on NB Power's role in human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Colombia

For Immediate Release

6th September 2006

Fredericton - Energy is emerging as one of the hot button issues in the provincial election campaign, and a coalition of New Brunswick groups hopes to get commitments from candidates on more than gas prices and home heating fuel rebates. The groups that include social justice, labour, environmental and faith-based organizations such as the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, the Saint John Chapter of the Council of Canadians, the Advocacy Collective, Citizens' Press, the Falls Brook Centre, the Tantramar Environmental Alliance, the United Church World Outreach Committee of Woolastook Presbytery, Development and Peace -Saint John Diocesan Council, and the Atlantic offices of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Public Service Alliance of Canada want candidates to commit to addressing the fact that part of New Brunswick's energy comes from coal that is linked to documented human rights and environmental abuses in Colombia.

The election is not the first time this issue has been raised by concerned New Brunswickers. In March of this year some of the groups involved in the current campaign hosted a tour by Colombian community leader, Jose Julio Perez. At great personal risk Perez travelled, for the first time, outside of his native Colombia to tell the story of how his community was destroyed to allow the expansion of the Cerrejon coal mine in 2001. Perez was touring regions where coal from the mine is used to generate power including New Brunswick. While in New Brunswick, Perez met with Energy Minister Brenda Fowlie and NB Power executives, and made public presentations in Fredericton, Hampton and Sackville.

"Minister Fowlie and NB Power reps were visibly moved by Perez's story and committed to looking into the situation further," comments Ramsey Hart of Baie Verte, New Brunswick, one of the organizers of the tour. Since that time, however, no concrete action or public statement has been made by either NB Power or the Ministry of Energy. Attempts to follow up on the meetings by the organisers of Perez's visit have been fruitless. This is in contrast to other companies such as Dominion Energy and jurisdictions such as Salem, Massachusetts that have made public statements denouncing the human rights abuses and urging a just resolution for the displaced communities.

"One by one, small indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that have lived together, farmed, hunted, and fished for centuries, are being destroyed. Company agents illegally wiped the village of Tabaco off the map in 2001 to expand the mine and, on the expanding edge of the pit, the villagers of Tamaquito are being asphyxiated by the dust. We learned first hand from local villagers and the mine owners about the terrible human impact of this mine," stated Debbie Kelly from Halifax who participated in an international Witness for Peace delegation to the mining region in August 2006.

To ensure that NB Power is held accountable and the purchase of Colombian blood coal deservedly becomes an election issue, the New Brunswick coalition is calling on all New Brunswickers, individuals and organizations, to contact the candidates in their riding with their position and demand action on this important issue.

Contacts: In Baie Verte: Ramsey Hart, 538-1066, In Fredericton: Tracy Glynn, 454-9527,

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