Tierra Digna New Report: Colombia’s Coal: Who wins and who loses?

Oct 28, 2015 | Extractive Industries, News

Para la versión en español, haz click aquí.

Executive Summary, written by Tierra Digna, about their recently published research ” Colombia’s Coal: Who wins and who loses? Mining, World Trade and Climate Change.”

td carbon informeAs the world’s fourth-largest coal exporter, Colombia provides the primary energy to fulfill much of the US and Europe’s electricity demands. More than half of this coal is extracted from Cesar and shipped from Magdalena, two provinces in Colombia’s Caribbean region. To extract, transport and export all this coal, in the early 1990s, transnational corporations such as Drummond and Glencore installed huge mining pits, extensive railroads and high-tech seaports. All of these relatively recent developments have caused disproportionate negative effects on the communities living near the coal mines and the transportation infrastructure. 

In 2010, the Colombian government ordered three rural towns in central Cesar to “involuntarily resettle” due to the air-toxicity in the area induced by coal dust and other gases. Artisanal fishing communities living near Drummond’s seaport have also been progressively impoverished because coal and noise pollution in the bay around the port chase fish away. Despite all this, in 2014, Drummond and Glencore requested that government environmental agencies expand their operation licenses for another forty years.

Titled Coal from Colombia: Who wins and who loses?, ‘Tierra Digna’s’ latest mining report uncovers the disproportionate social, environmental and economic repercussions of Colombia’s steam-coal and export-oriented economy. The first chapter provides an overview of the country’s legal and public policy regimes during the last thirty years, which have promoted the coal industry while relaxing environmental standards. The text later moves on to a qualitative analysis of the most relevant global coal trade data and what it means for Colombia. The second chapter also discusses the future of the global coal trade in light of current and disconcerting debates, such as the energy crisis, climate change and mining-induced human rights violations.

Finally, the third chapter provides an in-depth study on the ecological footprint of transnational coal mining in Cesar and Magdalena over the last three decades. We find that coal mining and transport operations have contaminated (irreversibly in some cases) natural resources such as air, surface and ground water, and topsoil. As such, coal mining’s ecological footprint is inextricable from a wide range of human rights violations of local communities. Among these, we identify “environmental forced displacement,” “health hazards” and “rural community impoverishment” as the three major consequences of a three-decade long transnational coal business. Our report concludes with a discussion of global actors’ potential ecological and social debt towards Colombia and provides detailed recommendations for all parties involved in the transnational coal supply-chain.

Read the entire report (only available in Spanish, but with recommendations in English).