MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Colombia controvery

Published by MAC on 2008-02-07


Colombia controvery - Cerrejón podría decidir expansión de mina antes de 2009

7th February 2008

It seemed that bought into what the chairman of Anglo American, Mark Moody-Stuart, said at a lecture in Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, when students showed video footage of the company's share in the destruction of Tabaco's, northern Colombia. This is a farming community populated primarily by Afro-Colombians, destroyed by Cerrejon's coal mine bulldozers in 2001-2002 to expand coal exports.

Now Cerrejon might invest on a major expansion, the company president has announced. As a resul, villagers from four more settlements - Roche, Pantilla, Chancleta and Tamaquito - are threatened with displacement.


Controversy Dogs Coal Operations in Colombia

By Chris Arsenault, IPS

7th February 2008

HALIFAX, Canada` - It's an interesting sign of the times when the chairman of a mining company notorious for illegally evicting subsistence farmers to increase international coal exports is invited to lecture on "sustainability".

But that is what happened when Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada invited Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of Anglo American plc, the world's second largest mining company *[see note] address a packed house about "Sustainability Challenges for Extractive Industries Operating Globally".

"There is a lot of buzz in the crowd, which is great," said Ray Cote, a professor of environmental studies, in introducing Sir Moody-Stuart, as student activists passed out leaflets about Anglo American's alleged transgressions in Colombia.

"This company, through its stake in the Cerrejon mine, is responsible for forcibly displacing hundreds of subsistence farmers in northeastern Colombia," said Bronwen White, a fourth-year international development studies student at Dalhousie who passed out critical leaflets prior to the event.

The village of Tabaco, a sustainable farming community populated primarily by Afro-Colombians, was destroyed by Cerrejon's bulldozers in 2001-2002 to make way for more coal exports. "This is not the kind of person who should be speaking about sustainability," White told IPS.

Sir Moody-Stuart is no stranger to this sort of controversy. With gentile candour and huge bushy white eyebrows, Moody-Stuart (he was knighted in 2000) once headed up Shell Oil's controversial Nigerian operations.

Because of his work at Shell and the ensuing allegations that the company had collaborated with Nigeria's military to murder environmental activists, Moody was featured in the popular documentary "The Corporation"; he serves tea to radical earth-first environmentalists as they protest on his front lawn.

While most corporate honchos don a pinstriped suit for these sorts of engagements, Moody-Stuart wore a rumpled blazer atop an un-ironed blue shirt, with several pens stuffed into the breast pocket.

He says he doesn't believe profit should be the driving force for corporations. "The ultimate goal of a company is to produce quality goods and services," he told the audience. "There is not much trust in big business these days."

Activists, however, weren't buying what Sir Moody was selling. One audience member, a master's student at Saint Mary's University, accused him of "corporate green washing" while others held colour photos of Colombian families displaced by Anglo American's operations.

The Cerrejon mine, owned by Anglo American and two other multinationals, is the largest open pit coal mine in the world.

Bronwen White and other students showed video footage of Tabaco's destruction prior to Sir Moody's presentation. In it, a small girl with pigtails and pink overalls cries and pushes against the shields of Colombian riot police as bulldozers ram her family's home while other community members scream and wail.

Prior to its destruction, Tabaco boasted a school, health clinic, good farmland and a telephone exchange. Today, most former residents have joined three million internally displaced Colombians eking out a living however they can.

"Cerrejon employs thousands of Colombians, paying high wages," Moody-Stuart told IPS in an interview prior to the event. "The original relocation [of Tabaco], I think, was carried out in accordance with Colombian law." However, he adds, "We have always said that we don't think it [the displacement] was perfectly executed."

When pressed about whether shipping coal, tainted by allegations of human rights abuses, from Colombia to Canada represents a sustainable business practice, he said, "We can stop producing coal, but your lights are going to go out."

In 2007, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched an investigation of BHP Billiton, an Australian multinational with a stake in the Cerrejon mine, for the eviction of Tabaco. Moody-Stuart thinks an OECD investigation of Anglo American is a realistic possibility.

In response to human rights concerns around Anglo American's operations, Moody-Stuart told IPS his company has struck a committee, chaired by the President of Cape Breton University and consisting of NGOs from Chile, a Colombian economist and other notables to investigate allegations around Cerrejon. Their report is due out soon.

Moody-Stuart maintains that only "a small number" of families from Tabaco were not compensated for their property. After interviewing more than 60 families displaced from the community, Dr. Avi Chomsky at Salem State University came to a different conclusion.

"We heard the same story again and again," Dr. Chomsky told IPS in an e-mail after completing the most comprehensive research available on the Tabaco displacement. "'We are peasants, we are farmers,' people told us," said Chomsky. "'We used to be productive people; we used to support ourselves and our families. We were not rich, but we worked our land and we provided our children with what they needed. Since the company took our town and our land, there is nothing for us to do. There is no work'."

Cerrejon produced 30 million tonnes of coal last year and hopes to expand to 38 million to 42 million tonnes by early next decade. This means more communities will soon be displaced.

"Four more villages -- Roche, Pantilla, Chancleta and Tamaquito -- are threatened with displacement in the next few years," said Garry Leech, a lecturer at Cape Breton University who has interviewed scores of farmers displaced by Moody-Stuart's mining operations.

"Cerrejon has been harassing people living in these communities, demanding that they leave the area," Leech told IPS in a phone interview, adding that the mine refuses to collectively negotiate with the nearby communities.

"Throughout history, people have had to move for industrial projects," said Moody-Stuart in an interview. "The question is how you manage those displacements."

"Everyone can make mistakes," said Bronwen White after Moody's talk and the lively question and answer session which followed. "But it seems like Anglo American's Colombian operations haven't learned anything from the displacement of Tabaco. These aren't just numbers; we're talking about people's homes and lives that will be destroyed."

* Anglo American is far from being the world's second biggest mining company, ranked by market capitalisation and revenues. In fact it lags behind BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale (formerly CVRD) in the global mining stakes.


Cerrejon could decide coal expansion by end '08-exec

Reuters

31st January 2008

Cerrejon de Colombia, one of Colombia's two biggest coal miners, could have an investment decision by the end of the year on a major expansion, the company president said on Thursday. Leon Teicher, president of the company owned jointly by BHP Billiton, Anglo American Plc and Xstrata, said studies were well underway and a final decision by the end of the year was "within the realm of possibility."

However, the expansion could not be completed and ready to send coal into the market before 2011, Teicher told the 8th annual Coaltrans Americas conference.

Cerrejon produced 30 million tonnes of coal last year and hopes to expand to 38 million to 42 million tonnes by early next decade, provided demand stays strong and export prices justify the investment, Teicher said. In the long run, the reserve could support output of 55 million to 60 million tonnes, but expansion to that level of production could be not be achieved until 2015 or later, he said.

Cerrejon cut output last year by an estimated 1 million tonnes, halting sales in August because it said it wanted to assure delivery of promised sales. The company cited closure of a port for 10 days among issues forcing a re-evaluation.

The move came as a surprise to European buyers and helped drive an expansion of purchases of export steam coal from the United States, which some analysts project will double from 10 million tonnes in 2006 to 20 million tonnes or more in 2008.

(Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Walter Bagley)


Cerrejón podría decidir expansión de mina antes de 2009

Jueves 31 de nero de 2008

MIAMI (Reuters) - Cerrejón de Colombia, una de las dos minas de carbón más grandes del país sudamericano, podría tener hacia el final del año una decisión sobre la inversión para una expansión de su operación, dijo el jueves el presidente de empresa, Leon Teicher.

El directivo de la empresa operada conjuntamente por los gigantes mineros BHP Billiton, Anglo American Plc y Xstrata, dijo que los estudios estaban bien encaminados y una decisión final era posible antes del cierre del año. Sin embargo, la expansión no podría ser completada ni quedar lista para enviar carbón al mercado antes del 2011, sostuvo Teicher en una conferencia anual sobre el mineral.

Cerrejón produjo 30 millones de toneladas de carbón el año pasado y espera ampliarse a entre 38 millones y 42 millones de toneladas antes del comienzo de la próxima década, si la demanda sigue fuerte y los precios justifican la inversión, declaró el ejecutivo.

A largo plazo, la reserva podría soportar la producción de 55 millones a 60 millones de toneladas, pero la expansión a ese nivel podría no alcanzarse hasta el 2015 o más tarde, dijo Teicher.

Cerrejón cortó su producción el año pasado en un volumen estimado en un millón de toneladas por debajo de su meta y paró sus ventas en agosto porque quiso asegurar la entrega de los embarques prometidos.

(Reporte de Bruce Nichols. Editado por Javier López)

 

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