March was a big month for our team in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. The team started off with a round of meetings in Apartadó, including meetings with the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ombudsman Office, the Urabá Police, and finally the 17th Brigade, which operates in San José de Apartadó. We held these meetings to express concerns about violations of the Geneva Conventions and protection measures that are guaranteed to the Peace Community and to gather information about the region to keep the team safe.
Then Adilah left the initial training in Bogotá to join the team in the field just in time to accompany with Nikki to a nearby Peace Community hamlet. On March 23rd, Adilah, Nikki, and Michaela all joined in the celebrations of the San José Peace Community’s 18th anniversary – 18 years of being a community that actively resists all armed forces in the area.
Weaving a concrete thread through red dust and boiling sun, a winding two-lane highway curves through the northern department of Cesar, Colombia, carving out a familiar route. Passing between housing settlements of mud and brick stained the color of the earth, open-pit mines and mineral dumping grounds, it traces deep pockets of coal deposits. An estimated 6.8 billion metric tons of recoverable coal reserveslie throughout the country [pdf file], with the largest concentrations in the northernmost sector.
When the first multinational mining companies arrived here in the 1990s, the region was transformed. Coal production ratesincreased by 80% [pdf file] between 1999 and 2005, and traditional mining practices were all but left behind. Mineral extraction began to signify economic innovation, and the passage of free-trade agreements with the US, Canada, Korea and the European Union opened the country to foreign corporations and investment. With goals to double exports and triple mining production by the year 2021, coal production hit peak rates; a reported 85.8 million tons [pdf file] were produced in 2011 alone.
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