MAC: Mines and Communities

Request for Urgent Action on the El Cerrejon Coal Mine

Published by MAC on 2003-06-08

Request for Urgent Action on the El Cerrejon Coal Mine

Richard Solly of Colombia Solidarity Group (UK), 8th June 2003

It is a long time since I wrote to you about the coal mine at El Cerrejon in the Department of La Guajira in northern Colombia and the communities displaced because of the mining.

The former residents of the community of Tabaco, close to the mine site, still await an adequate relocation settlement from the mining company, Carbones del Cerrejon. It is now more than a year since the May 2002 decision of the Colombian Supreme Court ordering the company and the local municipality to provide land and funds to rebuild the village in another location.

Carbones del Cerrejon is owned by a consortium of three European-based companies: Anglo-American and BHPBilliton, with offices in London, and Glencore, based in Switzerland. At the Anglo American shareholders’ meeting in London on April 25th, company Chair Sir Mark Moody Stuart announced that Carbones del Cerrejon had just made land available to the local municipality of Hatonuevo for the relocation of Tabaco. But neither the residents nor their lawyer, Mines and Communities editorial group member Armando Perez, were consulted about the location of the land. They have no idea whether it is adequate, and still await official written confirmation of the offer.

Meanwhile, Armando Perez is being harassed by the La Guajira Attorney’s Office. Armando denounced a local judge for allowing the August 2001 destruction of Tabaco by the mining company. He was put under house arrest for over a month in December 2001-January 2002 for supposedly ‘falsely denouncing’ the judge. He accused the Attorney’s Office of corruption and incompetence for illegally imprisoning him and he is now being accused by the Attorney’s Office of slander and perjury for doing so. If he were judged guilty be would face another prison term. The case against him was pursued without his knowledge for many months, hampering his ability to mount a defence.

Please write to the Colombian national Attorney General, Dr Luis Camilo Osorio, to demand that he intervene to ensure that the Supreme Court decision of May 2002 is obeyed and the harassment of Armando Perez is stopped. Below is a model letter in Spanish (an English translation is below it). The letter is written in fairly general terms to avoid any further accusations of slander being levelled at Armando Perez. Please send it to and copy it to the Anti-corruption department at

Doctor Luis Camilo Osorio
Fiscal General de la Nación
Santa fe de Bogotá

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