MAC: Mines and Communities

Statement By Anglo American Shareholders Concerned About Colombia, 25 April 2003

Published by MAC on 2003-04-25
Source: Unknown

Statement by Anglo American shareholders concerned about Colombia, 25 April 2003

Mining investment in Colombia

The development of large-scale mining projects in Colombia has usually been preceded by paramilitary operations on behalf of the government for the purpose of ‘guaranteeing’ foreign investment. These operations have devastated the civilian population to the extent that more than 68% of the three million people forcibly displaced in Colombia come from areas in which mining or oil companies are operating already or plan to operate. In the last seven years, 437 massacres have occurred, in which more than 3000 people have lost their lives. 74% of the human rights violations in the six departments (provinces) with the highest mineral production have occurred precisely in those municipalities where mining takes place. The majority of them are committed by paramilitary organisations working on behalf of the Colombian government.

In Colombia, a trade union leader is assassinated every three days. 42% of them work in the mining and energy sector. The US-based company Drummond Coal has been accused in the US courts over the assassination of three trade union leaders. Last week a court in Atlanta allowed the case to proceed, considering that Drummond could have been guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. If a definitive judgement is made against the company, the sentence could pose a huge economic risk to its shareholders.

Anglo American’s investment in Colombia

Would it not be wise to ask ourselves, as shareholders, whether it is ethical to invest in a country whose president stands accused of favouring drug traffickers and of having drug traffickers’ agents as his advisers, whose armed forces are associated with paramilitary organisations which commit the majority of human rights violations, and where those paramilitary groups are reputed to commit those violations precisely in order to provide ‘protection’ for multinational companies? Would it not be wise to ask ourselves what might be the repercussions of a court decision against the Colombian government (with which we have signed our mining contracts) or against a company such as Conquistador Mines, with which we were involved in a joint venture from 1999 to 2001 and which stands accused of committing human rights violations?

Our image will affect our investments. Why not ensure that our investment really does produce economic development rather than misery for Colombian people? Why not try to ensure that the indices of human development in that country are improved? Will our returns not increase if we make ethically and socially responsible investments? Have we thought how much we might lose, both in reputation and in profit, if the military and paramilitary forces which at present ‘guarantee’ the security of our mine at El Cerrejon murder, torture or displace unionised workers or local Indigenous and Afro-Colombian residents?

What can we do?

We should condition our investment on strict respect for human, community and workers’ rights. There should be a just distribution of tax returns and profits among the population, respect for the environment and the rights of the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian inhabitants of the region round the Cerrejon mines, and a commitment to respect social and trade union organisations. Our company should not manipulate the process of framing laws or mining regulations. It should not promote corruption among government functionaries. It should ensure that our operations generate social and economic development for the Colombian people. Our profits should have nothing to do with human misery and the committing of crimes against humanity. To pursue any other agenda could have grave repercussions for our investments, our image and our susceptibility to potential legal cases which might even cast us as guilty of human rights violations.

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