MAC: Mines and Communities

Report from Anglo American AGM, Church House, Westminster, London, England

Published by MAC on 2004-04-21

Report from Anglo American AGM, Church House, Westminster, London, England

21 April 2004

En Ingles y Español - Español aqui

Questions and answers at the Anglo American AGM (shareholders' meeting)
held at Church House, Westminster (London), Wednesday 21 April 2004,
about the coal mine at El Cerrejon Zona Norte in the Department of La Guajira, Colombia

Richard Solly (Mines and Communities Network, Colombia Solidarity Campaign) said:

I have four questions about the operations in La Guajira, Colombia, of the Carbones del Cerrejon company, in which Anglo American has a 33% holding.

1. A number of families were forcibly evicted from their homes in the village of Tabaco in 2001 to make way for mine expansion. At last year's AGM, in answering a question from my colleague Sister Joan Keitch, who sends her best wishes and apologies for absence, you said that you agreed that certain aspects of the relocation of this community were unacceptable. You pointed out that at the time the mine was operated by Intercor, a subsidiary of Exxon. Now, however, the consortium in which Anglo American holds a 33% share is the operator. Early last week, residents of the small community of Sarahita, six kilometres from Tabaco, were dragged from their homes, eleven of which were then demolished. Large numbers of police were apparently present, and the operation was supervised by the same mine employees who supervised the destruction of Tabaco in August 2001. Those rendered homeless have nowhere to go. I wonder in what way company policy on forced relocation has changed for the better and I seek your comment.

2. You also told us at last year's AGM that land had been made available to the municipality of Hatonuevo so that former residents of Tabaco could be relocated there. Later in the year, Mr Bickham informed us that the company had made 57 hectares of land available to the municipality of Hatonuevo for the resettlement of people from Tabaco. However, we have subsequently learned that of these 57 hectares, a certain proportion form part of the Indian Reservation of Lomamato and 22 hectares are owned by other third parties. Former residents of Tabaco were therefore understandably loath to move there and the offer can hardly be said to fulfil the company's obligations under the Supreme Court ruling of May 2002 ordering the relocation of the village. Neither can the municipality's latest offer of urban land, since the people wish to continue farming. They have identified the piece of land they would like. It is called Ojo Caro and is currently owned by the company. Why can the company not give it, or even sell it, to the municipality of Hatonuevo for the relocation of the former residents of Tabaco? It does not seem much to ask.

3. The Indigenous community of Tamaquitos, also close to Tabaco, has been reduced to utter penury because of mine expansion. The children there are suffering from malnutrition. This is because the men of the village used to work as day labourers in surrounding farms which have now been swallowed up by the mine, and to supplement their diet by hunting wildlife which has now been driven away by the mining. They also urgently need to be compensated and relocated to productive agricultural land. What is the company going to do to help them?

4. Finally, we have heard that the company is planning to divert the River Rancheria, the most important watercourse in the dry province of La Guajira. This could be tremendously damaging for many communities which rely on its waters. What are the company's plans in this matter?

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman of Anglo American, replied as follows:

He expressed regret that Sister Joan Keitch was not present and sent his best wishes. He visited El Cerrejon as he had said he would at the 2003 AGM. It gave him a better understanding of the impact of the mine on the surrounding communities. He was impressed with it. The mine is very large and is working its way across the valley. As it moves, the mined land is being backfilled and rehabilitated. The mine is a major contributor to the province, which is one of the poorest in the country. The company has initiated a number of successful projects with the Wayuu people. But there will be issues arising with such a project. Sir Mark urged Richard Solly to write to the company as soon as he becomes aware of issues. This would be useful as the London office communicates regularly with the management at El Cerrejon and sends people there to interact with them. If they had details of the issues they could interact more helpfully. Sir Mark said that he did not have all the details with which to respond to the questions raised. If in future Mr Solly could provide such details in advance it would be helpful.

He made the following specific answers to Richard Solly's questions:

1. Lessons had been learnt from the mine expansion and the relocation of Tabaco. With regard to Sarahita, the problem probably concerns 25 people who had come back to reoccupy the area after they had been moved. At the time that they were moved, there were only five or six people there and most of the people were only there during the day time. The London office learnt of this incident last week and understood that it had occurred some days earlier.

2. Regarding the 57 hectares, Sir Mark was aware that there was an issue involving title to the land. He did not know all the details.

3. Regarding Tamaquitos: when he visited the communities in the area into which the mine was likely to expand, he was quite shocked at the poor standard of housing and the extreme poverty in which the communities lived. The only sign of positive activity was from the mine, which provided a bus to take the children to school. This is maybe not enough, but the mine is trying to address the issues. The relocation of these communities would certainly be helpful.

4. The mine is progressing across the valley and the possibility of river diversion is being investigated, but nothing definite has been decided. If it is decided, it will be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Social Impact Assessment before anything is done. (Earlier, Edward Bickham of Investor Relations told Richard Solly that a feasibility study is being conducted into three basic possibilities: no river diversion, small amount of diversion and a large amount of diversion. The study's report should be ready by the end of the year.)

Tony Redman, Chief Executive of Anglo Coal, added that of the 57 hectares mentioned, 10 hectares had been made available to the Municipality of Hatonuevo for the displaced residents to move to.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart said that the question of Ojo Caro should be discussed later.

Tony Redman added that he was not aware of the request to move to Ojo Caro.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart concluded his answer by saying that they were in regular contact with mine manager Alberto Calderon, who was very able and committed.

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