Mine workers have recently finished a one month strike at the massive Cerrejón opencast coal mine, owned by three mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange: Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata. Mine workers and farming communities being displaced by mine expansion have united in struggle against the Cerrejon mining company. The SINTRACARBON union has now signed an agreement with the company which makes progress in their fight for better health care and respect for the rights of local farming communities and against subcontracting and the company’s plans for diversion of the region’s only major river for mining.
In April, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and London Mining Network, with help from War on Want and World Development Movement, will be hosting a visit by Julio Gomez, President of FECODEMIGUA, the Federation of Communities Displaced by Mining in La Guajira. La Guajira is the northernmost province of Colombia. One of the multinational mining companies involved, Anglo American, will hold its Annual General Meeting for shareholders in London on Friday 19 April 2013.
There will be two public events that you are invited to attend:
- “Stories of Resistance”, 6.30pm – 9pm, Monday 15 April, at Amnesty International UK, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. Julio and community representatives from around the world will give personal testimony about their struggles against Anglo American or Rio Tinto, another massive British mining company.
- Demonstration outside the Anglo American AGM, Friday 19 April, 1 – 2pm, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London, SW1P 3EE. (Keep an eye on http://londonminingnetwork.org for details).
Watch a 3-minute interview with Julio Gomez recorded when he was in London for the BHP Billiton AGM in October 2011.
Construction of the Cerrejón mine began in the late 1970s. A number of communities have been evicted and their villages destroyed as the mine has grown. Most of these communities are either made up of Wayúu Indigenous people who have lived in the area since well before the Spanish conquest, or people of African descent, who fled slavery on the Colombian coast and set up free communities in land vacated by Indigenous people. The first community to be evicted and destroyed was Manantial, a community of African descent. This was in 1986. Others followed – including Palmarito, El Descanso, Caracoli and Sarahita. In 2001 the village of Tabaco was destroyed. Some of its former residents accepted compensation from the mining company, while others held out for a community resettlement agreement. They finally signed an agreement with the company at the end of 2008. This encouraged people from communities long since destroyed to come together in the new FECODEMIGUA federation to try to get justice from the mining company. The federation has also welcomed people from communities now facing removal from their land and destruction of their agricultural way of life. They point out that the company constantly makes enormous profits, while communities have been dispersed and many people have ended up in poverty.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign, http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/
London Mining Network, http://londonminingnetwork.org, 07903 851695