18 june 2020

Cerrejón responds to Twenty Essex press release

A press release issued by the firm Twenty Essex has come to Cerrejón’s attention, announcing the filing of a request before various United Nations organisations to conduct an investigation regarding alleged human rights violations caused by the Cerrejón operation, in particular to the Provincial Wayuu community. While the company shares concerns about the wellbeing of the Wayuu indigenous communities, we emphatically reject the presentation of inaccurate and biased information about Cerrejón’s social and environmental performance, including completely false data on the company´s water use and air quality. We regret that this account continues to repeat information without real evidence, apparently supporting interests that do not represent all members of the Provincial indigenous community. We also regret that Twenty Essex did not contact Cerrejón to afford us the right to respond.

Cerrejón is ready and willing to offer information to the different United Nations agencies to whom the report was directed to provide details about the company’s social and environmental performance. Cerrejón maintains continuous constructive engagement with many UN agencies and has provided detailed information upon request.

Cerrejón has been operating for 30 years and has developed its activities in good faith. We are respectful of regulations which have evolved over time and have resulted in enhanced implementation of international standards such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the International Finance Corporation performance standards.

We strive to implement rigorous and robust policies and processes as international standards are developed, and we operate under the principle of continuous improvement: our practices are audited by independent third parties such as ISO 14001 and OSHAS 14000 certifications and the assurance process undertaken by the coal buyers’ initiative Bettercoal.

In addition to embedding human rights due diligence processes to manage impacts by the operation, Cerrejón develops programs which contribute to improving the living conditions of the ethnic communities neighbouring the operation, including Provincial. An example of this is that, in 2019, the company invested USD 3.8 million to strengthen, train and support members of this community, as well as taking measures to improve access to water and develop projects which generate income. In 2019, we delivered 26.4 million litres of water. Over our years of operation we have provided financial aid for access to higher education to 17,000 people. Additionally, through the Public Works Tax Initiative, in 2019 we invested USD 2 million in the expansion of the water treatment plant in Riohacha, La Guajira.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cerrejón has devised measures and protocols needed to manage, in as safe a way as possible, aspects such as health and hygiene, cleanliness, and social distancing in order to protect the health of workers and the communities and, in turn, gradually restart the operation. With a commitment to supporting the neighbouring ethnic communities in facing this crisis, Cerrejón has redirected its voluntary social investment of nearly USD 2.4 million to the health system in La Guajira: we have donated more than 100,000 medical supplies to local hospitals, including three ventilators and a laboratory to process PCR molecular tests, which does not exist in the department.

Since March, we have worked alongside local institutions to distribute more than 50,000 mercados (parcels containing food and hygiene products) to nearly 12,000 families in 400 communities and, with the support of local authorities, we have been able to significantly scale up our water distribution program resulting in the delivery of more than 12 million litres of potable water to communities, including Provincial.

We refute strongly the allegations and the insinuation that we have acted inappropriately, both in general and during the COVID-19 pandemic.