MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Colombia Update

Published by MAC on 2006-11-07


Colombia Update

REPORT BY THE INTERNATIONAL DELEGATION - YANAMA - SINTRACARBON TO THE SINTRACARBON PLENARY, Colombia

7th November 2006

IMPACT OF THE CERREJON MINE EXPANSION ON THE COMMUNITIES IN THE MINING AREA

During the week of October 30 to November 3, 2006, a delegation of the National Union of Coal Workers (Sintracarbón) made up of José Arias, Freddy Lozano, and Jairo Quiroz, worked together with several international NGOs and the Wayuu indigenous rights organization Yanama to investigate the living conditions and health conditions in the communities in the area of the Cerrejón mine.

The delegation met with the communities of Patilla, Roche, Chancleta, Tamaquito II, Albania, and Los Remedios, as well as the indigenous reservation of Provincial and the displaced population of Tabaco. It carried out health clinics, conducted a public health survey, and listened to testimonies and life stories in all of these communities.

These communities are being systematically besieged by the Cerrejón company. The company begins by buying up the productive lands in the region surrounding the communities, encircling each community and destroying inhabitants' sources of work. These communities have historically relied on agriculture and herding (cattle and goats). Another phenomenon we observed everywhere was that the rivers in the region have also been swallowed up by the company's land acquisitions. Now the communities' residents have also lost the ability to fish. Because the rivers have become part of the company's private property, residents who have tried to fish there have been harassed by the company's private security forces and by the army. Some have been arrested and jailed. The goal of these policies is to eliminate all sources of employment and the only means that the communities have of supporting themselves. If the UN had created such a category, we might say that these communities are reduced to the conditions of the "living dead": they do not have the minimal conditions necessary for survival. They are suffering from constant attacks and violations of their human rights by the Cerrejón company.

Another of the company's macabre tactics has been to cut off the communities' electricity periodically. This is just another element in the systematic process of annihilation of the communities, to create despair so that they will negotiate from a position of weakness, desperation, and hopelessness, and agree individually to the company's terms.

Each of these communities has been reduced to a zone of misery. We invite all of the leaders and members of the union to consider this issue. The activities of these multinational companies carry a very high cost for the communities, which are uprooted from their lands and livelihoods under inhuman conditions.

We also saw evidence of many cases of respiratory diseases, skin infections, mental health problems, arthritis, and other illnesses.

It the Cerrejón company has a social responsibility towards these communities, Sintracarbón also has a moral and political responsibility to accompany the communities that are being affected by the expansion of mining. We invite the entire plenary of our union to join with the struggle of these communities for better conditions and quality of life. We invite our union members to take on the communities' problems as our own problems, in the defense of the people of the Guajira.

As a union committed to the struggle of these communities, we have established the short-term goal of working to help unify the affected communities, to participate in their meetings, to take a stand with the local and national authorities regarding the absence of public services in the communities, to begin a dialogue with the company about the reality we are now aware of, and to take a public stand locally, nationally, and internationally about the situation of the communities affected by the Cerrejón mine and its expansion.

SINTRACARBON STANDS WITH THE STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE FOR THE COMMUNITIES AFFECTED AND DISPLACED BY THE CERREJON MINE!

¡VIVA LA JUSTA LUCHA DE LAS COMUNIDADES DESPLAZADAS Y AFECTADAS!

SINTRACRBON PRESENTE

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