MAC: Mines and Communities

Take Action

Published by MAC on 2001-08-15

Take Action

It is necessary to maintain pressure on local and national government and on the corporations involved if this legal decision is to be carried out. If you have time, please take the following actions:

1. Send the following letter to the Mayor of Hatonuevo, the Municipality in which Tabaco is situated (English translation follows, but it would be better to write to him in Spanish); or write your own letter to him in Spanish.

Sr Enaimen Rodríguez Ojeda, Alcalde de Hatonuevo,
La Guajira,

Distinguido Senor Alcalde,

Me he enterado que en mayo la Corte Suprema de Colombia ordeno la reubicacion de la comunidad de Tabaco en la provincia de La Guajira, es decir, reconstruirla totalmente en la forma que han planteado sus habitantes, en un nuevo lugar, con la ayuda de las autoridades civiles y de las empresas mineras que son duenas y operadoras de la mina del Cerrejon Zona Norte.

Entiendo que la comunidad de Tabaco fue destruida injustamente por la empresa minera Intercor entre agosto de 2001 y enero de 2002 para que la mina pudiera expandirse, y que a los habitantes les fue ofrecida una indemnizacion completamente inadecuada.

Tambien le estoy escribiendo a las empresas multinacionales que ahora son duenas y operadoras de la mina para insistir que ellas cumplen con la decision de la Corte Suprema de Colombia. Le pido a Usted para que asegure que las ordenes de la Corte Suprema sean cumplidas sin demora.

Atentamente, (your name).


“Dear Mr Mayor,

“I have learnt that in May the Supreme Court of Colombia ordered the relocation of the community of Tabaco in the province of La Guajira, that is to say, it ordered that it be completely rebuilt in the way in which its inhabitants had planned, in a different place, with the help of the civil authorities and the mining companies which own and operate the mine at Ell Cerrejon Zona Norte.

“I understand that the community of Tabaco was unjustly destroyed by the mining company Intercor between August 2001 and January 2002 so that the mine could expand, and that the villagers were offered compensation which was wholly inadequate.

“I am also writing to the multinational companies which own and operate the mine to insist that they comply with the decision of the Supreme Court of Colombia. I urge you to ensure that the orders of the Supreme Court are fulfilled without delay.”

2. Send the same letter, in Spanish, to the President of Colombia, Andres Pastrana (begin the letter ‘Distinguido Senor Presidente’ instead of ‘Distinguido Senor Alcalde’) and the Public Defender, Dr Luis Eduardo Cifuentes (begin the letter ‘Distinguido Doctor Cifuentes’).

Presidencia de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7-26 Palacio de Nariño,
Santa Fe de Bogotá
Teléfono. +57.1.5629300 Ext. 3550 (571) 284 33 00
Fax +(57)1 - 286 74 34 - 286, 68 42 -284 21 86

Dr Luis Eduardo Cifuentes
Defensor del Pueblo, Calle 55 No. 10-32, Santa Fe de Bogotá
Fax: (+57 1) 346 12 25

3. Send the following, or similar, letter, to Anglo American and BHP Billiton in London:

Edward Bickham, Public Relations Manager, Anglo American plc, 20 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AN. Tel: 020 7698 8888 E-mail:

Matthew Taylor, Manager Sustainable Development (Europe), BHP-Billiton plc, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5HA. Tel: 020 7747 3804 E-mail:

I understand that in May 2002, the Supreme Court of Colombia ruled that the community of Tabaco in the province of La Guajira must be rebuilt, having been destroyed between August 2001 and January 2002 by mining company Intercor, the wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil which at that time operated the mine. The community of Tabaco was razed so that the Cerrejon Norte coal mine could expand.

Tabaco had been a thriving community, with a church, school, clinic, communications centre, playground, homes built by the villagers themselves, gardens and pasture land. Compensation offered to villagers was wholly inadequate and villagers simply requested that they be relocated by the appropriate authorities with the financial assistance of Intercor so that they could continue to live together as a community, farming the land.

Now that Intercor’s interest in Cerrejon Norte has been sold to the consortium of Anglo-American, BHP-Billiton and Glencore, these companies share the responsibility of ensuring that the villagers of Tabaco receive a just relocation settlement.

The Supreme Court’s ruling must be upheld to reaffirm and reinforce the most basic of human rights in rural Colombia: the right to life, the right to subsistence through one’s own labour, and the right to human dignity. I urge you to ensure that your company fulfils its legal and moral responsibilities to the people of Tabaco and that it pressures the Colombian national government and the Municipality of Hatonuevo to ensure that they carry out the Supreme Court’s decision without delay.

Yours sincerely, (your name).

Please send copies of any replies you receive to Richard Solly at or c/o Colombia Solidarity Campaign, PO Box 8446, London N17 6NZ.

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