“The connections between County Clare, Ireland and La Guajira, Colombia may not be entirely obvious at first glance. Yet the regions are linked through a shared commodity: coal. Extracted in one region and burned in the other.
Coal extraction in La Guajira has a dirty secret, which I’ve witnessed first-hand: it is connected to a system of production entrenched in violence”
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a new operating licence for Moneypoint power station, despite objections from environmental groups who are concerned that the permit is not abiding by the emission limits set out by new EU rules.”
“The issue was also raised in the Dail by Sinn Fein Deputy Sean Crowe earlier this summer as he was “disturbed” about the large volumes of coal coming from Cerrejon.
Speaking in July, Mr Crowe said that Glencore, one of the three multinational companies operating the mine, is currently under investigation in the US for “massive corruption and money laundering in its mining operations throughout the world”.
“What happens to the coal before we burn it is not someone else’s problem; it is our problem. We are paying for it and it is our problem,” Mr Crowe said.”
“CERREJÓN mine in north-eastern Colombia is a fifth of the size of Clare but supplies the majority (approximately 90%) of the coal for Moneypoint power station, Ireland’s largest energy generation station and greenhouse gas emitter. The coal sourced from this area is tainted by the abuses suffered by the local people who endure threats, intimidation, police brutality, forced displacement and human rights abuses. Their indigenous lands and homes have been destroyed to make way for this colossus of a mine that continues to expand and leaves a trail of human suffering in its wake.”
“The news that power has been running over the last quarter without Moneypoint shows that we can afford to close the plant earlier than 2025 as currently scheduled, according to Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan.
Speaking to The Green News, Mr Ryan said that shutting the plant now rather than seeing out the remaining seven years of its lifespan would stop the release of 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
Podcast: Moneypoint offline for 3 months, January 4th 2019, in RTE radio
“Does this mean we can live without Ireland’s largest carbon emitter? Philip Boucher-Hayes reports”
“Human rights groups are pushing for a public hearing on the coal purchase deal. The Department of Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment, as well as the Oireachtas committee with that brief, have asked the ESB for explanations.
Over the past seven years, ESB has sourced some 7.5m tonnes of coal through CMC Coal Marketing, a Dublin-registered company set up to market and distribute coal from Cerrejon in Ireland and internationally.
According to accounts filed in Ireland, the company, which is owned by the same three multinationals as the mine, made an after-tax profit of €62.5m on €2.3bn in revenues in 2017 and it paid €9.2m in tax here.”
“Using coal from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines in northern Colombia cannot be justified by the ESB and other energy utilities, given its impact on human rights and contribution to climate change, according to a US academic.
The scale of environmental damage caused by the Cerrejón mine in the La Guajira region of Colombia amounted to “the fourth conquest of remote regions of South America”, said Prof Aviva Chomsky of Salem University in Massachusetts.”
“Clodagh Daly of the Latin American Solidarity Centre said Ireland is hypocritical in contributing millions each year to the UN climate fund to support developing countries responding to climate change while continuing to import from the Cerrejon mine.
“Ireland is actively sponsoring environmental destruction,” she said.”
“A lawsuit launched against the ESB’s coal supplier in Colombia heightens the urgency for the semi-state to divest from buying coal from the South American country, an Irish human rights group has said.
Last week indigenous and afro-descendent communities in the state of La Guajira – one of the poorest regions of Colombia – launched a legal challenge against a recent modification of the environmental license for the Cerrejón coal mine.”
” “In cases like La Guajira…there needs to be insurance and comprehensive investigation to ensure that intimidation and dispossession of land from vulnerable communities does not occur, and when they do occur there needs to be accountability and access to justice for communities, otherwise any good work being done towards advancing the peace process will be meaningless,” LASC commented.”
” Epiayu told The Canary the Wayúu community has a simple message. It wants international mining companies to stop mining its territory. She said it wants “global justice” around the use of natural resources.
And her community also wants to see a “change in consciousness” and a change to the society model that demands mining. Because according to Epiayu, if this model doesn’t change, her community is “condemned to die slowly”. “
“Since the Cerrejón mine began operating in 1985, Epiayu, an indigenous Wayúu woman from the La Guajira region, has witnessed her ancestors’ land deteriorate into wasteland with the production and exportation of 32 million tonnes of coal per year. In the process 35 indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been forced from their lands.
More recently, she says, the coal industry’s over-reliance on river water in the area, combined with a lack of rain, has led to drought, and resulted in the death of more than 20,000 cattle.
“What little water is left is contaminated by metals; it’s no longer suitable for human consumption or animals,” says Epiayu. “Obviously if there’s no water left this will negatively affect the social, cultural and economic fabric of the society. The mining is condemning our people to a life of poverty.”
Mining activity has not only destroyed La Guajira’s natural environment and cut off its communities’ access to safe, clean drinking water, but has also led to a rise in malnutrition, illnesses and deaths among the local population, says Epiayu.
In 2015, the Shipia Wayúu indigenous organisation reported that 4,700 children had died of hunger between 2010 and 2015, while Human Rights Watch says at least 193 children under the age of five died due to malnutrition between 2013 and 2017.”
“An Irish civil society coalition has called on the new Irish embassy in Bogota to intervene to protect communities and activists in a coal mining region in the north of Colombia.
In a letter sent to the embassy last week, the Stop Blood Coal Alliance said that it is “extremely worried” about the safety of communities in La Guajira, in particular, their leaders who have received death threats in recent weeks.”