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Carbones del Cerrejón – a company owned by three UK mining giants – has diverted the Bruno River in La Guajira, Colombia, to extract deadly coal from the infamous Cerrejón mine. This is not only illegal, it is wrong. This is climate violence.

By diverting the river, Carbones del Cerrejón continues to damage the ecosystems and communities of La Guajira, and our planet. Three Wayuu indigenous communities, supported by our partners, took legal action against the planned expansion of the mine into the natural course of the Bruno River. The court ruled in their favour, meaning the diversion is in direct contravention of a Constitutional Court order and the will of communities who depend on the river. 

The health of the river determines the functions of the surrounding dry tropical forest, one of the most threatened ecosystems in Colombia. In a region ravaged by drought and inequality, the Bruno is also a tributary of the Rancheria River – La Guajira’s main water source.

Please take action in solidarity with our partners, and write to Colombian authorities in the UK and in Colombia: Tell them to guarantee the rights of communities, including their right to participate in the decision-making process that will determine the fate of the Bruno River.

The letter will be sent to the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, the Colombian Embassy in the UK and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in Colombia. A copy of the letter will be sent to the UK Foreign Office, the Colombian Ombudsman’s office, and the Environmental Authority of La Guajira.

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Background info

For the past two years, mining company Carbones del Cerrejón – alongside Colombian government bodies – has been disobeying a 2017 Colombian Constitutional court ruling against the diversion of a vital water source, the Bruno River. The works to divert the Bruno River began in 2016 with the aim of extracting approximately 35 million tonnes of coal from the riverbed. 

The Constitutional Court declared a ruling (SU-698/17) in 2017, ordering that the diversion works be stopped, but this was not published in its entirety until earlier this year when the works were already nearly finished. 

Rather than consult with mining-affected communities as the court ordered, Carbones del Cerrejón (jointly owned by London-listed mining companies Anglo American, BHP and Glencore) and Colombian government bodies allowed the diversion to continue, preventing the water from being returned to its natural course.

This situation puts both the fragile tropical dry forest ecosystem and the communities who depend on the river at high risk, as the Constitutional Court highlighted in its ruling.

This is the latest in a long list of incidents that point to the systematic violation of the human rights of Wayuu and Afro-descendant communities in La Guajira, as well as the degradation of the environment, during more than 40 years of coal extraction by Cerrejon.

The burning of coal continues to be the one of the most polluting industries, emitting dangerous quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, exacerbating our planetary crisis and causing the loss of livelihoods for communities on the frontline. Defending the land rights of indigenous communities is crucial in the fight to halt the breakdown of our planet’s ecosystems.  

On June 6 this year, communities were finally called together but only to be informed by government bodies that the barrier diverting the river would not be removed.

Read our open letter to Carbones del Cerrejón, sent Monday 8 July 2019: https://waronwant.org/media/open-letter-mining-companies-cerrejon-colombia

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