Rosa María Mateus from CAJAR, Stephan Suhner from ASK, Diana Salazar from Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Samuel Arregoces from Tabaco, Javiera Martinez from London Mining Network, Claudia Blanco and Daniel Morón from Sintracarbon 

On Thursday, 28 April, the Glencore AGM was held in Zug, Switzerland. Mining multinationals Anglo American, BHP and Glencore have operated the largest open pit coal mine in Latin America, El Cerrejón. The El Cerrejón mine operates in the department of La Guajira in Colombia. This territory has historically been inhabited by Afro-descendant and indigenous Wayuú communities.

This mine has left a damaging legacy in the territory. The impacts of this mine include the dispossession of more than 25 communities, environmental degradation, and more than 20 local streams dried up or diverted, including the Arroyo Bruno (Bruno Creek), on which several communities depend for survival. Mining explosions generate emissions of polluting particles, noise and odours that affect the health of communities. Sacred territories have also been desecrated with cultural and spiritual damage, even disturbing the dreams of spiritual doctors who can no longer dream and guide their communities as a consequence.

Samuel Arregoces from the Consejo Ancestral de Negros de Tabaco (Ancestral Council of African-descendants of Tabaco) together with Rosa María Mateus from the Colectivo de Abtogados José Alvear Restrepo (José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective) travelled to Switzerland to participate in an international solidarity tour and also attend the Glencore AGM. The tour included participation in various activities to present the case of the diversion of the Arroyo Bruno, the impacts on the communities and the need to promote a Due Diligence Law. The delegation included representatives of the SintraCarbón and SintraMienergetica workers’ unions from Colombia and Peru.

Today we woke up very sad. We received the news that it has been decided that the El Cerrejón mining company can exploit the 3.7 km of the Arroyo Bruno that were diverted. With this decision they are going to put an end to the Arroyo, together with our nature and the survival of an entire people. With this decision they are going to destroy the water of all of La Guajira, not only the 3.7 km that the mining companies are going to exploit, and thus they are going to destroy the existence of indigenous peoples, like us the Wayuu and African-descendants.” Samuel Arregoces, Leader of the African descent community Tabaco.  

Since 2015, the multinationals have wanted to exploit the coal that is under the Arroyo Bruno. In 2017, the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that the company Carbones del Cerrejón and State institutions had violated the rights of local people to water, food sovereignty and health, by authorising the diversion and destruction of the natural course of the Bruno Creek for the sole purpose of expanding the extractivist exploitation of open-pit coal mining that has prevailed in the territory for more than three decades.

In 2021, Anglo American and Glencore filed a lawsuit against the State of Colombia in the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system due to the prohibition that prevents Cerrejón from exploiting the La Puente pit, where the Arroyo Bruno is located. The communities in La Guajira have struggled for years to publicise the impacts of coal mining on their territories. The pressure that multinationals are generating on the State of Colombia is causing a violation of the right to water and the territory of the communities.

Organisations in La Guajira have also received threats for defending their territory. This is not a minor fact, considering that Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries for defenders of the territory. As London Mining Network we accompanied the Colombian delegation on its tour around Switzerland as an act of solidarity with them in their struggle.