In the provincial reserve in the jurisdiction of the Barrancas municipality in the department of Guajira, from November 18th to 20th, 2011, we consider the issues that have arisen as a result of the request for permission to expand the Cerrejón mining project, as well as the impacts from this project´s open pit mining activities for the las 35 years in La Guajira.
Especial attention was drawn by the active participation during these meetings on the part of traditional autorities, women, youngsters and children.
During these three days, as tribes and communities we listened to each other and we analyzed, from different spheres and perspectives, the social, environmental, cultural and economical impacts that are making themselves felt as a result of mining activities in our territories.
We also reminisced on what we used to have before the arrival of the mining activities, and we examined the rights and guarantees that protect us and the degree of protection or violation on the part of the companies and the State during all these years.
WE NOTE THAT:
Before the arrival of the mining economy, there was peace and quiet in our communities; we lived better; there were animals for hunting; we could practice fishery and agriculture. However, with the arrival of the mining industry, with its promise of progress and development, the communities started being plundered; at no time were we consulted in accordance with the constitution, the international treaties, nor our own original laws and norms; it is evident that the authorities and the companies completely violated all legal standards of the Wayuu indigenous peoples and the afrodescendants, as well as the right to participation by the peasant communities.
This plundering has been suffered by communities like: El Espinal, Palmarito, Cabeza de Perro, Sojori, Tabaco, Chancleta, Roche, Patilla, Zarahita, Manantial, Caracolí, Oreganal, Las Casitas, Barrancón and el Descanso, which to date have not recovered their territory, or which have their territory without the proper titles, and with serious detriment to their culture and their social fabric, which limits the enjoyment of their rights as persons as well as community members. The Colombian State has not protected the rights of the communities to territory, participation, culture, health nor collective or individual property.
Large scale extractive mining activities on our own territories as well as on neighbouring territories have affected the cultures of the Wayuu people, afrodescendants and peasants. To this should be added that the Cerrejón Company, under the auspices of the Colombian State, intends to divert the course of the Ranchería river, from which river depend the municipalities of Barrancas, Hatonuevo, Albania and Riohacha, as well as their villages, Indigenous Reserves and community councils, as well as all the communities and inhabitants that live on the banks of the river.
It is noted with concern that after 35 years the Cerrejón mining project continues displacing native communities from the territory, contaminating water, air and soil, through coal dust which causes respiratory infections that have led to the death of a considerable number of inhabitants and community members; visual pollution through modification of the landscape and noise pollution as a result of the sounds produced by machinery and explosives.
At this moment, the interested companies1 are organizing meetings regarding the expansion of the Cerrejón mining project and the deviation of the Ranchería River with the objective of extracting coal, without taking into account the serious impacts that this project will have on the guajiros and guajiras, as a result of water shortages; air, water and soil pollution; biodiversity loss; ruptures in culture and in the social fabric and in the territory in general. Today we are faced by the imminent risk that in a few years the Guajira will disappear if the excessive ambition of the companies, with the complicity of the state, which want to leave us without a place to hang our hammocks, remain unchecked.
As if the damages caused by so many years of mining exploitation were not enough, today there exists the intention to divert more than 26 kilometers of the course of the Ranchería River, in response to which the inhabitants have organized marches on August 9 and September 6, 2011, because we do not want the course of the Ranchería River to be diverted, nor the continued expansion of the mining project. For as we have noted in these 35 years of exploitation, if the expansion takes place the living conditions of the majority of the inhabitants of La Guajira will worsen even more.
These projects, as well as their expansions, have been realized without respect for the right to participation by the citizens of La Guajira and Colombia; rights that are included in the Colombian Constitution.
We are aware of the rights that we have conquered, and which must be respected, not only by the Colombian State, but also by the companies and by their States of origin. In this sense we are opposed to the arbitrary manner in which these projects are pushed forward, whereby communities are deceived and misled in meetings that they are made to believe qualify as prior consultation.
The free, prior and informed consultation with consent to which we are entitled, cannot be obtained with such pressure and rushes as are being exerted by the companies CERREJÓN, PACIFIC RUBIALES and MPX, which through their staff, hiring our indigenous brothers, and in arbitrary fashion have entered our indigenous and afrodescendant communities, dividing families; ignoring our customs, traditions, community authorities, ways of living and the autonomy of the owners of the territory; who have organized meetings, drawing up records with only a few persons, ignoring that the land belongs to all members of the communities, and that 100% have to participate.
For this reason, and basing ourselves on the ILO 169 Convention, ratified by Law 21 of 1991, the Colombian Constitutoin and the national and international jurisprudence, we assert that the companies have no reason to promote consultations or to enter our territories without our consent and without authorization by our communitarian assemblies, which are the highest governmental organs in our communities.
The multinational companies have violated the indigenous peoples´ right to consultation. This they have done with the aid and sponsorship of the Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia, which thereby neglected its duty and the safeguarding role for which it was created, given that it has come to lean in favour of the megaproject interests of Cerrejón for its expansion phase, the railway for MPX, and the gas exploration activities in favour of the Pacific Rubiales company; just as it has done for all these years in relation to the coal megaproject.
1. We request the Colombian State:
a. To respect and safeguard the rights of the peoples to the full enjoyment of their collective territory;
b. To render void the consultations that have taken place with certain representatives that ignore the totality and the way of life of the communities;
c. To withhold licenses prior to having realized autonomous consultations in the communities;
d. To respect the decision regarding the form in which the prior consultation with the communities shall be effectuated, taking into account that the tribes are autonomous, owners of their territory and therefore that the consultation be based on their own customs, traditions and ways of life.
e. To order the cessation of harrassment practices on the part of MPX; practices that are directed against communities living in areas of mining activity, such as CAÑAVELARES, CORRALEJA, CONEJO.
f. To take urgent measures to guarantee, promote and recover the provision of food of the communities through productive activities such as agriculture, fishery, hunting and other activities according to their own habits and customs; as well as economic alternatives that are viable for La Guajira, preserving its territory, the water, the environment, labor and decent living for its inhabitants.
2. We demand that companies CERREJON, MPX, PACIFIC RUBIALES, and others that have the intention to perform operations in our territories:
a. Suspend their extractive mining activities in our territories;
b. Organize no more meetings in our communities and present them as prior consultations;
c. Not use the bodies of the inhabitants as publicity for their company;
d. Not deceive the youngsters of our communities, making them believe they are the best employers at the time;
e. Inform about the negative effects generated by their companies;
f. That the CERREJÓN Company repair the damages occasioned by 35 years of exploitation;
3. We affirm that we will not allow the deviation of the Ranchería River
4. We warn those who truly love La Guajira; who wish to live there and raise their children, that if we allow mining activities to continue to expand, that soon we will all be left WITHOUT WATER AND WITHOUT LAND.
5. We hold the Colombian State, as well as the CERREJÓN Company and the countries of origin of this company responsible for the impacts and effects on the territory and the human rights violations that will be suffered by the population for defending and preserving the Ranchería River;
6. We inform that we will not allow gas exploration activities to take place.
7. We warn that we do not accept the construction of a railway track nor of megaprojects that affect our way of life as well as our presence in the land that we live in.
8. We demand respect for the decision of the community regarding the form and the timespan in which prior and autonomous consultations in our territory shall take place.
9. We request national and international human rights organizations, as well as communities affected by minery, to work together towards de-certification of megamining companies in the world, because of their pollution and their attacks on humanity´s life.
FOR LIFE, WATER, LAND AND THE GOOD LIVING OF ALL GUAJIROS!
Signed: WAYUU, AFRODESCENDANT AND PEASANT COMMUNITIES FROM LA GUAJIRA, On November 20, 2011, at Provincial – Barrancas – Guajira, Colombia.