The Comic book The Magic of Responsibility is the result of joint work between communities affected by the Cerrejón coal mine and various international solidarity groups, who participated in July 2019 in the regional public hearing “Diversion of the Bruno stream and the humanitarian crisis in La Guajira” and the visit to monitor and assess the diversion works of the Bruno stream, in La Guajira, Colombia. The diversion had been carried out by mining company Carbones del Cerrejón. The multinational mining companies Anglo American, BHP and Glencore are the total owners of Cerrejón, each with 33.3% of the shares. The public hearing coincided with the Witness for Peace Delegation led by the academics Aviva Chomsky and Steven Striffler. Many US students participated in the delegation alongside members of the international organizations ASK! from Switzerland, Re: Common from Italy, and London Mining Network and Colombia Solidarity Campaign from the United Kingdom. 

(Versión en español debajo)

The regional public hearing, convened by the communities of La Gran Parada and Paradero, Senator Aida Avella and Senators Feliciano Valencia, Jorge Robledo, Iván Cepeda, Alexander López and Alberto Castilla, is part of the mechanisms of political control available in Colombian legislation to hold the government and multinationals to account when they are failing to comply with the law. In this case, the rights of indigenous and African-descent communities are affected, as well as the Rights of Nature. The hearing and the visit to the Bruno diversion were carried out within the framework of Constitutional Court Judgment SU-698 of 2017, which orders the protection of the communities’ rights to water, health and food. It dictates that the natural channel of the Bruno stream should not be exploited until the uncertainties and deficiencies of the environmental licence regarding the social, cultural and environmental impacts of the Tajo La Puente (La Puente Pit) exploitation project, as the company calls it, are resolved. 

During the public hearing, the communities explained how their position and thoughts have not been taken into account when deciding on their territory, concluding that the mechanisms of participation offered do not allow them to influence the decisions made. In the light of the precautionary principle, the Judgment of the Court ordered the Government of Colombia to take the provisional measure of returning the waters of the Bruno stream to its natural course. The Bruno stream remains diverted and the company and the Government refuse to return the stream’s waters to its natural course. 

The Comic book is an opportunity to depict the voices, feelings, struggles and desires of the communities affected by the diversion of the Bruno Stream, through a collective creative exercise. In general, the comic reflects on the ways in which communities have been affected by the Cerrejón coal mine, through the displacement from their territory and the uprooting from their traditional livelihoods, their culture and spirituality, which are strongly interconnected with and dependent on their territory. Their land now has been destroyed and exported as coal mainly to Europe. 

The Comic reflects on the environmental and cultural damage done by coal mining in the ancestral land of the Wayuu people, and the African-descent communities located in this area after escaping slavery during colonial times. The story is a call to take responsibility for the effects of the extraction and use of coal in changing the global climate and destroying local ecosystems and water sources.