Indigenous communities living by the Swiss-owned Cerrejón mine in Colombia describe their suffering over the past 40 years.

Where there is water, there is life. Without it, where are we going to live? asks Leobardo Sierra, a 48-year-old Wayuu Indigenous leader from Colombia. He lives at the foot of Cerrejón in La Guajira, one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines.

Leobardo Sierra in his house made with the ancestral technique of Bahareque.

Sierra built his house in line with traditional Bahareque techniques, using sticks and mud. At his wood-burning kitchen stove, he boils water to make his daily tinto, plain coffee with water.

He leads a humble lifestyle, far removed from consumerism, which comforts him. I don’t need millions of euros to live well.

The Cerrejón mine hit the region like a black hole in 1984, causing damage to the water supply, health, spirituality and culture of the communities from La Guajira.

Indigenous communities feel that life would be better if the coal mine had never been built.

Pregnant women fear that their children will be born sick. Bed sheets left to dry outside turn black from the mine particles. And speaking out against the mine comes with retaliation, threats and forced evacuations.

Sierra grew up without the mine, and his childhood memories are vivid. Before, we used to go fishing, hunting, collecting and gathering medicinal plants.

Now it’s almost impossible because they send people to watch over us. If the mine had never come, things would be better off.

Mónica Lopez, Wayuu leader, collecting drinking water from a tank in La Guajira.

A few meters from his house is one of the few water sources that the community managed to save: the Bruno Creek.

In 2016, the Cerrejón mining company was granted permission to divert the creek three kilometers from its natural course, but the local communities challenged this in court.

The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled in their favour, stating that there was uncertainty regarding the social and environmental impacts of the diversion. But six years on, the monitoring body on this ruling found that Cerrejón had not complied with it.

Mine workers are fighting for recognition of the diseases they are particularly susceptible to.

Where Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities saw their home and sacred trees, mining giants saw a million-dollar opportunity to extract tonnes of coal.

Cerrejón exports most of its coal abroad and is owned by the Swiss multinational Glencore – a source of grievance among the Guajiros who feel they live in poverty while others prosper.

According to Cerrejón’s 2020 annual report, 43% of the coal was exported to the Mediterranean region and 15% to other countries in non-Mediterranean Europe.

The Cerrejón coal mine in northern Colombia is one of the world's largest open-pit coal mines.

Cerrejón is the second most profitable mining company in Colombia. In 2022, its revenues increased by 149%. But these corporate success figures contrast sharply with the living conditions of the population.

They say we are rich because there is a company that generates a lot of profit, but in reality, the people are poor. We used to be the rich ones.

The mine or life: 'Without water, where are we going to live?'

When the mine opened, they deceived the people by promising them a better life and imposing an idea of progress.

It’s not fair that we have to die intoxicated and forced to uproot with sadness and pain while a multinational takes the money to another country, says Afro leader Samuel Arregocés. He claims that the coal arrives in Europe tainted with blood.

Euro / ABC Flash Point News 2023.

4 2 votes
Article Rating
Previous articleMilan is one of Italia’s most polluted cities in Europe
Next articleRussia intercepts NATO supersonic bombers over Baltic Sea
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Freak Show
Freak Show
26-10-23 21:52

Capitalism trade style like blood in exchange for money excavated out of minerals in confiscated mines in enslaved countries.

27-10-23 04:58

This is how capitalism works in reality. Plundering and confiscating other earthly properties.