A dozen ‘flying pickets’ visited the London offices of mining multinationals Glencore Xstrata, Anglo American and BHP Billiton yesterday, demanding that they abandon plans to evict the small farming community of Roche in Colombia.
The three companies together own the massive Cerrejon opencast coal mine in the Colombian province of La Guajira. The village of Roche is in the path of mine expansion. Negotiations aimed at relocation of the eight families still living in the village had stalled over the amount of compensation villagers will receive for years of disruption to their livelihoods, health and community life, and the amount of land they will need to continue their cattle herding. Villagers have been dismayed at the contempt shown to them by company negotiators.
The Cerrejon Coal company decided to try to force villagers to cave in by obtaining a court order for eviction on Thursday 29 August. On Monday 26 August, in the face of protests and planned protests from around the world, Cerrejon Coal announced it had postponed eviction plans and asked a local judge to set a new date so as to allow more time for talks.
Picketers in London demanded that the eviction plans be scrapped altogether, as they represent a ‘gun to the community’s head’ in the negotiations. Protesters called for respectful, good faith negotiations leading to a just and decent resettlement agreement with villagers at Roche.
Letters to the Chairmen and Chief Executives of each company were handed in at the companies’ offices while noisy and. At times, musical protests took place outside.
Picketers also visited the Foreign Office to protest against the British Government’s support for British multinationals overseas despite the negative human rights impacts of those companies’ operations.
The protest was organized by Colombia Solidarity Campaign with the support of World Development Movement and other groups.