August 22, 2019 

Cerrejón statement on lawsuit filed against comprehensive environmental management plan

Cerrejón has been notified, along with the National Mining Agency, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Environmental Licensing Authority and the Regional Autonomous Corporation of La Guajira, that the Council of State has admitted a lawsuit filed by two communities in La Guajira (Paradero and Gran Parada), four national NGOs (Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, CINEP, CAJAR and CENSAT) and three members of the National Congress of Colombia (Aída Avella, Iván Cepeda and Feliciano Valencia) against the company´s Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).

In general terms, the arguments stated in the lawsuit revolve around (i) a lack of control and monitoring by environmental authorities, (ii) effects on water resources and the environment in La Guajira (iii) lack of participation from local communities, specifically the violation of the right to prior consultation, and (iv) a lack of adequate prevention of environmental impacts produced by mining activity.

Additionally, the plaintiffs have requested that precautionary measures be adopted while their claims are being definitively resolved. These include a prohibition on any modification of the CEMP that involves expansion of the operation and suspension of coal mining in areas near the communities due to alleged violations of the right to health, life, water, dignity and participation. Once the Judge receives the final information from all defendants, the Council of State has a period of 10 working days to make this decision.

Over more than three decades, Cerrejón has developed its operations in good faith, complying with applicable Colombian legislation and under the guidelines, procedures and processes established by the authorities. Likewise, as a pioneer in Colombia, over the years the company has voluntarily adopted recognised international standards, which at various times have gone beyond what is required by law. All this shows the company’s commitment to preventing and lessening its impacts and to respecting the human rights of its employees, contractors and neighbouring communities.

During this time, Cerrejón has forged a relationship of mutual respect with most of the communities settled in its area of influence, which is based on an understanding of the diverse interests and with each party exercising their rights and obligations. The action presented before the Council of State must be framed within this dynamic of how the various legal mechanisms made available to its citizens work in a society, such as Colombia, based on the rule of law.

Cerrejón thoroughly rejects what is put into question in the claim, which tries to make it seem that the company has obtained its contracts, licenses and permits illegitimately, as well as the way they seek to confuse public opinion and the communities in the department, presenting the company as being responsible for the economic, social and environmental challenges faced today in La Guajira. This questioning puts the country’s institutions in doubt, seriously affecting legal certainty, not only for Cerrejón but for the industry, in general, and creates a loss of competitiveness in the private sector, which is the developmental engine for the national economy.

Cerrejón will continue on its path to ensure a responsible and respectful operation that creates economic, social, environmental and individual value in La Guajira and the country and will work to build alliances that focus on working on what unites us and not on what divides and separates us. We call on all sectors, public opinion, the Guajiran people, our employees, contractors, suppliers, the authorities, the media and civil society to work together for development in a territory that requires united efforts to promote strategic and sustainable projects to benefit the region.

Cerrejón respects Colombian institutions and will abide by the decisions made in the framework of this process. Based on the fundamental right to defence, the company will respond to this lawsuit backed by facts and proof that will show the legitimacy of its operation. The company remains open to dialogue and will keep working responsibly in search of opportunities to improve its performance.