Colombia: Indigenous communities file lawsuit over lack of impact assessment in alteration of environmental license for Cerrejón coal mine; concerned at impact on health of locals

Author: Niall Sargent, Green News (Ireland), Published on: 2 March 2019

"Legal action in Colombia against ESB coal supplier", 27 Feb 2019

A lawsuit launched against the ESB’s coal supplier in Colombia heightens the urgency for the semi-state to divest from buying coal from the South American country, an Irish human rights group has said...

The mine is one of the largest open-pit coal mines in the world, with Cerrejón producing and exporting nearly 32 million tonnes of coal in 2017, over one-third of total national exports...The lawsuit filed by affected communities argues that the alteration to the license was carried out without an Environmental Impact Assessment. The plaintiffs are also seeking an injunction to suspend any further alteration of the license that would allow an expansion of mining activities...

The inadequacy of Cerrejón’s environmental license amounts to “a breach of constitutional law, the State’s international treaties, and statutory regulations,” according to Alirio Uribe Muñoz, a legal representative from the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective Corporation...

The expansion of the mine, the legal team said, would exacerbate the current humanitarian crisis in La Guajira caused by the mine, including a loss of food security and lack of access to water that has influenced the deaths of 5,000 children and malnutrition of 40,000...

In a statement, Cerrejón said that the mining company is committed to conducting its operation in line with national law and international standards to prevent and mitigate impacts of its operations.

The company said that it is committed to the respect of human rights and “have been [on] a journey to implement standards” aligned with the UN principles on business and human rights...

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Related companies: Cerrejón Coal (joint venture Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencore)