Cerrejón response to ABColombia

At Cerrejón, we welcome the interest and concern which non-governmental organisations have shown for the welfare of communities in La Guajira, particularly in these difficult and unprecedented times when it is essential to come together to prevent a crisis of even greater magnitude.

We have seen the press release issued on April 28 signed by several national and international NGOs. A series of allegations are made against Cerrejón in this release, assertions the company greatly regrets due to their lack of substantiation. Within the scope of our engagement, we have repeatedly provided information to NGOs when asked. In the spirit of transparency, we have welcomed visits from national and international organisations to the operation and to see the work carried out on the Bruno creek when they have made a request or by our invitation: Cerrejón continues to maintain its open-door policy.

Regrettably, the press release repeats yet again information that is incomplete and inaccurate about water use in Cerrejón, including the partial deviation of the Bruno creek, the gradual restart of operations and the implementation of preventive measures to protect employees, contractors and communities from contagion of COVID-19, and false accusations of Cerrejón´s involvement in threats to social leaders.

The semi-arid conditions of La Guajira intensify the scarcity of water in a region that has limited public infrastructure. Cerrejón has been committed to the responsible use of water, the protection of water basins and the support needed to deliver water to local communities. Cerrejón has been committed to the responsible use of water, the protection of water basins and the support needed to delivered water to local communities.

As has been reported on various occasions, Cerrejón strives to reduce the use of high-water quality in its operation. Currently, 11% of the water used by the Company is high-quality and the rest, which is used to control dust levels, is not apt for human consumption. In regard to the modification of 3.6 kilometres of the Bruno creek riverbed, by moving it 700 metres north of its original location, it is important to point out that the work complies with the permits required by national law and follows internationally-recognized social, environmental and engineering standards: this project is based on rigorous technical studies undertaken by national and international experts. The stream’s new riverbed shows behaviour that is in accordance with its design, emulating the same biological conditions of the original riverbed and replicating the flora and fauna native to this body of water. The project has been the subject of extensive periodic evaluations by the Inter-institutional Roundtable, which confirmed that the 700m deviation is not affecting the water supply to neighbouring communities.

In addition to programs to enhance sustainable access to water, Cerrejón has implemented humanitarian water distribution programs during drought periods and now, through the crisis brought on by the pandemic. We have undertaken a series of initiatives resulting in:

  • Delivery of 10 million litres of water to the communities in our area of influence;
  • Distribution of more than 50,000 mercados (baskets with food and hygiene products);
  • Investment of approximately 560.000 USD in medical supplies to medical centres in La Guajira – medical personal protection items, thermometers, stretchers, oxygen tubes and Isopropyl Alcohol Disinfection Sanitizer, among other products.
  • In June, we will provide hospitals in Riohacha, Maicao and San Juan with three mechanical ventilators for the exclusive use of patients with COVID-19.

Regarding the accusations of unfettered transmission COVID-19 throughout our operations, it is important to highlight that by March 23, Cerrejón significantly reduced operations, focussing solely on essential tasks such as equipment and infrastructure maintenance, compliance with legal requirements, and contractual commitments which needed to be met. Of those staff not deemed critical to carry out these functions, paid vacation leave was mandated for all. This period allowed the company to define and develop preventative measures to ensure we could gradually restart operations with clear procedures in place which would protect the workforce during these unprecedented times.

Cerrejón launched an array of controls which are necessary to minimize the risk of transmission in its operations with mine-specific protocols. We published guidelines and recommendations from the national authorities (see: www.cerrejon.com), shareholders and mining industry, which are being implemented in the gradual restart of operations, while we actively monitor behaviours and developments in the region.

It is of great importance to Cerrejón to reassert our categorical rejection of threats made against social leaders in La Guajira. The company has insisted that the Colombian authorities investigate any and all threats to social leaders in order to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions. We are working with other companies in the sector and the national government on a protocol which will clarify the roles of companies and the authorities when threats arise. Additionally, we signed an agreement with the NGO CREER which is committed to strengthening local capabilities by ensuring their responsibilities can be fulfilled while building trust between all parties to prevent violence.

We understand the complex social conditions in the department of La Guajira, and, whenever possible, we contribute to positive change in the region. However, sustained effort requires commitment and action from national, departmental and local institutions as well as from different economic and social actors. Our goal is to work with all these various groups to improve the living conditions in the department.

We encourage you to consult our sustainability report to learn more about our contribution to the country as well as how we work to create social and environmental value https://www.cerrejon.com/index.php/informes-de-sostenibilidad/