Indigenous community in talks with BHP-backed Cerrejón over differences

Image: Cerrejón

The Provincial ‘Wayuu’ Indigenous community in Colombia has disputed human rights allegations launched at one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world, Cerrejón.

The mine restarted its operations amid COVID-19, with British barrister Monica Feria-Tinta claiming earlier this month that the mine had put the community at risk of contracting the virus while also reducing the scarce water supply.

The Wayuu community refuted any representation from Feria-Tinta, who is acting on the mine dispute.

The community also claimed to have no relation with the Lawyers’ Collective José Alvear Restrepo that represented the London-based law firm, Twenty Essex.

Feria-Tinta had since requested for an intervention from the United Nations Special Rapporteur.

“The claim is mostly based on a recent ruling from Colombia’s Constitutional Court which made findings of environmental contamination and ordered the company to prevent water and air pollution and control emissions, among other things,” Twenty Essex stated.

“The request is also asking Colombia, a party to the Paris Agreement, to phase-out coal mining.”

The Wayuu community stated that the complaints mentioned by the lawyers only represented the position of two families and not of the entire community.

“… According to Wayuu customs, communities are represented by their governing council and traditional authorities. … We demand respect for indigenous autonomy in making their decisions,” the community stated.

“The Provincial community authorities have preferred to maintain direct dialogue with the company to resolve existing concerns about the effects of the mine’s proximity and are currently holding talks to resolve existing differences, within the framework of the Judgments issued by the Constitutional court.”

Cerrejón is equally owned by BHP, Anglo American and Glencore.