The Cerrejon Coal company, owned by London-listed multinationals Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, has announced a suspension of studies and consultations on the possible diversion of 26kilometres of the River Rancheria, the only river of any size in the Colombian province of La Guajira. The diversion is strenuously opposed by many communities and civic organisations in the area.
The company stated that the fall in the price of coal had rendered the project uneconomic at present. Local organisations resisting the project believe that concerted community opposition has played the key role.
The purpose of the river diversion was to enable the company to gain access to 500 million extra tonnes of coal.
The Civic Committee of La Guajira for the defence of the River Rancheria and the spring of Canaverales issued a press release on 9 November stating that “the only way Colombians can defend our country from the voracious greed of transnational mining is by mobilising.” It also noted that the Colombian Government had expressed doubt about the company’s conduct of supposed prior consultations with Indigenous communities.
Trade union, student, Indigenous, peasant and othe rpolitical organisations opposed the diversion because of the danger of irreversible ecological damage and social and cultural damage to the Wayuu Indigenous People.