Protests against the environmental licence given by the Corporación Autónoma Regional de Santander to the French company Colcco [credit: Twitter @ComiteSanturban].

Communities and organisations have been mobilising against coal mining in Colombia and an open-pit project in Santander, for over 20 days, in the face of threats, intimidation and surveillance. Friends of the Earth International calls on the Colombian government to guarantee that the rights of peoples to defend their waters and territories are respected, and urgently punish those responsible for these aggressions.

Since 9 January 2023, residents of the Barrancabermeja, San Vicente and Carmen de Chucurí municipalities in the Magdalena Medio region of Santander, have been demanding the revocation of an environmental licence granted to the French mining company Colcco S.A. for an open-pit coal mine. On 25 January, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development publicly announced that it would initiate the process for revoking the permit which was granted by the National Environmental Licensing Authority to exploit coal for 30 years. However, no concrete action has been taken yet.

Supporting the organisations’ legitimate peaceful struggle against coal mining in Colombia

Environmental leaders, who are promoting social mobilisation, have been intimidated and threatened for several weeks now. People participating in the protests are also being followed and intimidated. Pamphlets and an intimidating video signed by the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia -AGC- or Clan del Golfo are being used to declare that those mobilising against the mining project are military targets as well as many who have not even participated in the strike. Friends of the Earth International supports these organisations’ legitimate peaceful struggle as a way to confront the planetary climate crisis.

Friends of the Earth International condemns the use of threats to protect extractive projects and intimidate people defending their territories and practising environmental democracy. Friends of the Earth International demands that the National Government, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ombudsman’s Office safeguard the lives of the defenders of nature, and find and prosecute those responsible for these actions that seek to generate terror within the population.

Friends of the Earth International expresses internationalist solidarity with the environmental leaders of Magdalena Medio Santander. We will follow the progress of measures to protect and guarantee rights. We invite the international community to denounce the use of violence against the legitimate mobilisation of the people [1].

[1]   This communication will be sent to the Presidency of the Republic of Colombia, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ombudsman’s Office.