Houses in the community of New Roche, June 2014 (photo: Richard Solly)
By Richard Solly, Co-ordinator, London Mining Network, with assistance from Julia Lagoutte
We have just received news that many families from three of the communities displaced by Cerrejon Coal (owned by London-listed companies Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore) in the province of La Guajira, Colombia, have returned to their old village sites because of dissatisfaction with conditions in the new settlements.
Anglo American may have reasons for being grateful that the severe downturn in the mining industry has led it to decide to sell all its coal operations – including its stake in Cerrejon Coal.
Most of the families from the communities of New Chancleta and New Patilla, and some of the families from New Roche, have decided to go back to the sites near the Cerrejon mine from which they were moved by the company, in protest at what they say is the failure of the company to keep its promises about employment skills, productive projects, water and health care in the new communities. They say they will start rebuilding houses in the old sites unless the company attends to their concerns immediately.
Residents of the relocated were complaining about problems when I visited them in June 2014. And the problems have escalated since.
In a letter to the company, the families say: “This is to inform you that as families of the resettled communities of New Chancleta, New Roche and New Patilla, due to the adverse conditions of life that we have encountered for several months now, we have been obliged to return to our original site, in search of a solution, due to the fact that the company HAS NOT COMPLIED with the agreements made with the communities, … but has delayed, for too long, agreements on which the maintenance of our social fabric and the economic stability of our communities depend.”