Colombia Policy Watch
While employees from the company controlling the largest coal open-pit mine in the world are going on a strike on February, increased military presence in the mineral-rich area of southern Bolivar has threatened local communities' safety. In La Guajira, employees from the Cerrejón Company are demanding not only higher wages, but recognition of the severe health problems triggered by open-pit mining and halting the corporation's project to modify a river that sustains indigenous peoples' livelihoods in the area. In Sur de Bolívar, community organizations from the Serranía de San Lucas are warning against the danger of military officers partnering up with paramilitary forces to persecute the ELN. Communities fear that increased military offenses seeking to rescue the mining engineers kidnapped by the ELN on January 18th will inadvertently trap the civilian population in the crossfire. What ties these two stories together is the growing number of conflicts in Colombia around large-scale mining projects because of their social, environmental and human rights impacts.