Read the full statement from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in English.
Globally, mining companies have done precious little to protect people in response to Covid-19, whilst they have saught to profit from the pandemic, according to a report from June 2020 by War on Want, Mining Watch Canada, London Mining Network and others.
The Cerrejón Coal Company claims it has supplied water during the crisis to almost 300,000 people and donated US$1.5 million to humanitarian aid and food security initiatives.
However, the company stands accused of causing many of the underlying problems facing the region in the first place. The mining operation has been linked to the displacement and the destruction of livelihoods of at least 35 Indigenous, African descent and small-farming communities.
Cerrejón uses 16 million litres of water per day in a drought-stricken region and its operations have negatively affected 19 rivers and floodplains in the area, jeopardising the endangered dry tropical forest ecosystem.
“It is clear that the Wayuu people are some of those exposed and we are at high risk because of the rail line which crosses 140km of our territory. People are arriving from outside without any controls. What guarantees do we have that these people who are arriving to the Bolivar Port, where the freighters arrive to pick up coal from all corners of the world, won’t be transmitting COVID-19? The train, full of coal, is passing by 24 hours a day. The contamination continues to kill us and the company’s irresponsibility, too. And for all of us who are complaining, who are speaking out, we are immediately threatened so that we stop condemning their actions. The worst of it is that the government is a government on its knees in front of the company."
– Luis Misael Socarras Ipuana, Wayuu Women’s Strength (Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu)