Update on Rio Rancheria Diversion Print
Sunday, 20 January 2013 17:04

In early November 2012, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, London Mining Network and War on Want issued an urgent action request asking people to write to the mining companies involved at the Cerrejon coal mine in La Guajira, and to the Colombian government, objecting to the mining company's planned diversion of the River Rancheria, the only river of any size in La Guajira, so that the massive opencast operations can expand even further and gain access to 500 million extra tonnes of coal.

No al desvio del Rio Rancheria

Foto credit: http://notiwayuu.blogspot.com/

Later that month, the Cerrejon Coal company, owned by London-listed multinationals Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, announced a suspension of studies and consultations on the possible diversion of 26 kilometres of the river. The diversion is strenuously opposed by many communities and civic organisations in the area as well as by mineworkers' union SINTRACARBON.

The company stated that the fall in the price of coal had rendered the project uneconomic at present. Local organisations resisting the project believe that concerted community opposition has played the key role.

The Colombian government agency responsible for overseeing the conduct of government departments, the Contraloria, criticised the company's environmental impact assessment on the project, questioning its assertion that there would be little impact on ground water. In a debate on mining held on 30 October in the Colombian Senate, Senator Jorge Robledo also accused the company of carrying out a fraudulent consultation process with local communities and bribing people with gifts to vote "yes" to river diversion.

The Civic Committee of La Guajira for the defence of the River Rancheria and the spring of Canaverales issued a press release on 9 November stating that “the only way Colombians can defend our country from the voracious greed of transnational mining is by mobilising.”

Trade union, student, Indigenous, peasant and other political organisations opposed the diversion because of the danger of irreversible ecological damage and social and cultural damage to the Wayuu Indigenous People.