Cerrejón’s comments on the report Voices from the Ground: How the Global Mining Industry is Profiting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Bogotá, 02 July 2020

Cerrejón has had the opportunity to read the report Voices from the Ground: How the Global Mining Industry is Profiting from the COVID-19 Pandemic, written by the NGOs Earthworks, Institute for Policy Studies, London Mining Network, Terra Justa, MiningWatch Canada, War on Want, and Yes to Life No to Mining. This report contains a series of accusations against Cerrejón based on inaccurate and biased information, and we reject allegations of promoting forced displacement, failing to recognize court rulings, or benefiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Cerrejón we are committed to continuous improvement in the implementation of international standards. We are a mine which has been in operation for 30 years and has developed its activities in good faith, in compliance with the law and applicable standards. We are respectful of regulations which have evolved over time and have resulted in enhanced implementation of international 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 light of the report published by the NGOs mentioned above, Cerrejón would like to offer clarification to the allegations presented. It is important to mention that at no time did the company receive a request for information from these NGOs in the process of drafting their report.

Allegations of displacements

• On the accusation of having promoted forced displacement in La Guajira, we feel it necessary to explain that the development of a mine requires the purchase of land, either to carry out mining activities or to compensate for environmental impacts. Throughout our history, all the requirements relating to the purchase of property from the communities in the area were made in good faith, in compliance with the national regulations in place at the time, and always paying fair prices, often above market value.

• Since adopting the International Finance Corporation’s social and environmental performance standards, land purchases and resettlement processes have applied these standards to ensure participatory and dialogue-based processes to identify and manage impacts; determine the properties for transfer; design houses and villages; deliver new dwellings and deeds; provide access to basic services; purchase land for agricultural work; provide technical support; and, introduce programs for educational and psychosocial development as well as initiatives which support the elderly.

Cerrejón always prefers to reach agreement between parties; but, in cases where it has been impossible to do so, expropriation has been a necessary last resort, carried out within the framework of Colombian law and international standards and in the presence of public oversight institutions and those defending human rights.
Allegations of excessive water use

Cerrejón has a Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) which governs the environmental management of all mining, railway and port activities. This plan is monitored and controlled by the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA). The CEMP includes measures aimed at identifying, mitigating, preventing and, where necessary, compensating for the impacts caused by our operation, including water management.

• The accusation about of excessive water use by Cerrejón is false. We have halved our consumption of high-quality water from the Rancheria River and its aquifer in the last 10 years. Water used to control dust is low-quality water extracted from
coal seams or rainwater collection ponds – this water is not suitable for human or animal consumption, or for agriculture. High-quality water, which accounts for 7% of total water use at Cerrejón is solely for human consumption and distribution to indigenous communities.

About partial diversion of the Arroyo Bruno

• The partial diversion of the Arroyo Bruno consisted of moving a stretch of 3.6 kilometres of the creek’s riverbed 700 metres to the north in order to preserve it, protecting it from the development of the mining operation and using best practice and innovative technologies to ensure that it would continue supporting all ecosystem conditions. The project was carried out in compliance with all existing permits. It follows recognized social, environmental and engineering standards, and was based on rigorous technical studies undertaken by national and international experts. Today, the creek’s new riverbed is replicating behaviours in accordance with its design, emulating the same biological conditions of the original riverbed and conserving the flora and fauna in this body of water.

• The accusation that Cerrejón has not recognized Constitutional Court ruling SU-698 of November 2017 by failing to return the water from the creek to its original riverbed is not true: the Court did not order the company to return the deviated section of the creek from its new course to the original one.

• On the contrary, the ruling requested that the Inter-institutional Roundtable, comprising 16 national and regional public entities and Cerrejón, carry out the necessary technical studies to address a set of uncertainties related to possible additional environmental and social impacts. Specifically, it requested that the Roundtable evaluate whether it was necessary to return the creek’s riverbed to its original course while assessing the above uncertainties. The Roundtable determined that keeping the watercourse in the new riverbed would avoid unnecessary and additional impacts which could be harmful and lead to serious consequences. This decision is not definitive: the final decision will be made by the Roundtable at the end of the process of studying all uncertainties, a process in which the plaintiff communities and involved third parties may participate by presenting information which supports their position regarding this matter.

About restarting operations

• Contrary to what is stated in the report, Cerrejón has taken all the necessary measures to protect its employees, contractors and neighbouring communities from the emerging COVID-19 health crisis. On March 23, operations were reduced by 80% and only activity related to essential tasks such as the maintenance of equipment and infrastructure, compliance with legal requirements on environmental issues and previous contractual commitments were maintained. This reduction in activities resulted in workers being given collective paid leave.

• Before gradually restarting operations in May, Cerrejón 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.

• For full information on measures adopted and humanitarian aid, we invite you to visit: www.cerrejon.com

Finally, we regret that the report concludes, erroneously and with clear bias, that Cerrejón has used humanitarian aid in support of vulnerable communities to “whitewash” its image and present itself as “saviours”. It surprises us greatly that the goodwill and solidarity we are offering in these unprecedented times is misinterpreted and misrepresented, without considering the real needs experienced by the indigenous population of La Guajira. We believe that, in a society, governments, civil society organizations, communities, and the private sector must act accordingly and in solidarity to face this global crisis together.

We are proud of the support we continue to provide to communities and the efforts made across the company, which have been carried out by a team of men and women committed to the wellbeing of the communities and the region. 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 neighbouring communities.

We refute strongly the accusations and the insinuation that we have acted inappropriately, both in general and during the COVID- 19 pandemic. To date we have invested nearly USD $4 million to strengthen our water distribution plan, delivering more than 12 million litres of water to the communities. We have also strengthened the health system in La Guajira with the donation of more than 100,000 medical supplies for local hospitals, including the upcoming delivery of three ventilators and donation of a laboratory to process PCR molecular tests, which does not exist in the department, to identify COVID-19 and other virus.