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    Communities in Cesar struggle to be heard in public hearing on coal mining

    Written by Thomas Power, FOR Peace Presence accompanier. Para la versión en español, haz clic aqui.

    We were mistaken in the past. We no longer exchange life for money.” Community members from Boquerón, in central Cesar, Colombia, directed these words at the Colombian environmental licensing agency (ANLA) and transnational coal-mining companies during public hearings on January 28th and February 5th 2016. The multinationals Drummond and Glencore are planning to expand operations, and have solicited ANLA for a modification to their environmental license. In response, affected communities petitioned to hold public hearings on the proposed expansions to make their preoccupations heard.

    Boquerón is a traditionally Afro-descendant community. As such, in Colombia the community has the right to prior, free and informed consultation, a process in which the community based on reliable information either refuses or grants its permission to carry out the proposed mining projects. However, as only the departmental and not the national government, has recognized Boquerón’s status as an Afro-descendant community, this right has consistently been denied. Many believe that the government has denied the community this recognition precisely because the right to previous consultation would complicate mining activities in the region, which is an important economic engine in the national government’s eyes and the region’s principal economic activity.

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