'Cerrejon, Coal for the world, progress for Colombia' (To the rear: town of Roche, mostly abandoned due to effects of mine displacement, pollution and health effects)
El Cerrejon Report
On the 9th August myself and Steve Mathers from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign attended the international mining conference - ´Dialogue about Mining in Colombia and its International Connections’ in the town of Riohacha (Guajira province). The date commemorates the the forceful expulsión of the Afro-Colombian Community Tabaco from their land in August 2001. Jose Julio Perez (who came to the UK in February) subsequently invited us on a two day trip to the communities close to the mine that are suffering the brunt of its expansion. We started in Albania - the local town to where he and many other afro-Colombians from Tabaco are displaced. From there we went to the villages of Remedios, Amakito, Chancleta, Roche and Patilla
Jose Julio Perez (President of the Tabaco Relocation Committee at an international mining conference 9 August (date comemorates the violent expulsion of the town of Tabaco)
The aim of the conference was to make a call to the national and international community for a definitive relocation of the peoples displaced by the Cerrejon coal mine - the largest open pit mine in the world. On the part of the delegates, the aim was to construct a work agenda. A central theme was the ethno-cultural identity of the communities. This is a fundamental issue in asserting the extent of the damage caused and the nature of the indemnification required. Also discussed was the need for collective negociation, both locally and internationally. A big problem in the area is fatigue; most communities have been in resistence for at least 10 years and have not moved forward.
7 Year girl in Patilla. Like many she suffers skin rashes from the effects of the mine dust. Local health provision is woefully inadequate and reliant on ineffective handouts from El Cerrejon.
The same process of pressure and displacement is still taking place here. Indigenous fishermen of Amakito are prevented access to the river to fish by the mine vigilantes. Remedios is suffering the inconvenience and expense of a road closure by the mine. There is also talk of plans to build a new road directly through the communities. In Patilla electricity (controlled by the mine) is cut for periods of upto 25 days. Unemployment is also a massive problem. There is almost no land left to cultivate here and the mine appears to be outsourcing skilled lobour whilst operating a de facto employment bar against communities in resistence and those already displaced such as Tabaco. In all of the places visited there is talk of sytematic “encirclement” or “suffocation” of the communities by the mine. In pressuring individuals to sell for lower and lower amounts the mine is breaking the community´s collective resistence. Those lucky enough to be relocated are recieving no more than a house of equal size – disregarding the ethno–cultural and psychosocial damage and the breaking of work practices and social fabrics. Perhaps the gravest effect is the uniform health effects (cancers and complaints of the lungs, heart, intestines, skin and eyes).
“We are contaminated. The children are ill, we are unemployed and we are selling our houses to buy food...we want negociations rapido or we are going to die here!”(Quote from interview with elderly resident of Chacleta)
Pete Bearder 17/08/2007
Mine's own train track that cuts accross landscape. Despite denouncements El Cerrejon refuses to cover the carridges. The giant trains blow coal dust over the neighbouring communities, polluting and contaminating.
Unable to displace - one of the few remainders of Roche
Jose Julio Perez with computer courtesy of Oxford and District Trades Coucil UK
Wayuu community of Tamaquito. Their land has been taken by the mine. Mine security prevent access to fishing waters. The most recent resident to suffer effects of the coal dust is a ten month baby with diarrhea.
Cerrejon propaganda in Bogota airport