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Coal mine, illegal evictions and worker’s rights in Colombia

070325_colombiamine.gif Dear Covalence team, I am part of a Swiss-based working group that gathers and spreads information about various problems that challenge the civil population in Colombia. At the moment, I am working on a case involving a the largest open-pit coal mine in the world, Carbones del Cerrejà³n, situated in the North of Colombia, in the province of La Guajira. The mine is jointly owned by a consortium made up of Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata (I have attached a detailed development and description of the ownership). In 2001, Carbones del Cerrejà³n has started to violently displaced indigenous and afrocolumbian communities from the living ground of their ancestors and on which they were living in self-sufficiency, as part of its expansion project. At least three more villages are still to follow in order to give way to the mine’s further expansion. Particularly appaling is the fact that the evicted communities have still not get any satisfactory compensation despite of a pursuant ruling of the Constitutional Court of Colombia. Alarming is also the high rate of killed or injured union activists. Around the mining zone, schools, roads, health care and other social services are almost nonexistent and many of the coal workers do not have a fixed contract of employment, but have been working for years on a temporary base. In December 2006 Sintracarbà³n, the National Union of Coal Industry Workers, entered into internationally monitored contract negotiations with Cerrejà³n. The unionists included into their claims a demand that the mine recognize the communities’ rights to collective negotiation, collective relocation, and reparations in their bargaining proposal. The workers achieved through these negotiations a new general contract of employment (“Convencià³n Colectiva de Trabajo”) that should bring some improvements in the working conditions but also in the workers’ access to social services. Our working group will follow the implementation of this still theoretical improvements constantly, but to be useful, our findings have to be made public. This is where covalence could maybe be of use. I have seen that Anglo American and BHP Billiton show a fairly good record in your ethical quote and Xstrata is not shown at all. I do not know if you have been aware of their involvement in La Guajira, in their expulsion of indigenous and afrocolumbian communities, in their ignoring of some basic working conditions and in their involvement in paramilitary activities. But I think it would be important to inlude these facts, but also show the possible improvements that could follow from the achievements of the negotiations. I am aware of the fact that you need more hard facts in order to be able to include the behaviour of these multinationals in Colombia. Thus, I would like to know how I have to proceed in order to get these facts included in these firm’s ethical quote. Image source:

Message received by Covalence | Country: Colombia | Company: Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Xstrata | Source: Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien

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