VICTIMS OF OUR ENERGY POLICIES
ASK FOR OUR HELP
WHEN: Oct. 29-Nov. 3, 2006
WHERE: La Guajira, Colombia
WHAT: The union at the Cerrejón coal mine and the communities affected by the mine have asked us to accompany the start of collective bargaining negotiations to help pressure the foreign-owned mine to respect human rights
Power plants in the United States and Canada are major importers of Colombian coal. Now we have the chance to give something back to the people and communities that are affected by the mines.
WHO: Our trip is being sponsored by Sintracarbón (the union at the Cerrejón mine), the indigenous rights organization Yanama, and the Social Committee for the Relocation of Tabaco.
We invite ANY interested person or organization to join our delegation. The union and the communities have specifically asked for MEDICAL SOLIDARITY, and we are especially seeking one or two people with medical skills to help us assess the health needs of people affected by the coal mine.
For more information contact North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-542-6389.
LETTER FROM JAIME DELUQUEZ, PRESIDENT OF SINTRACARBON:
The National Union of the Coal Industry "SINTRACARBON" is preparing to present a negotiating proposal to the corporation Carbones del Cerrejón. Carbones del Cerrejón is a joint venture by the multinationals Anglo-American, BHP Billiton, and Glencore (XStrata). The corporation's Cerrejón complex on the Guajira peninsula in Colombia is the largest open-pit coal mine in the world.
Our proposal contains some basic points for discussion including the health, education, and welfare of the communities in the mining region, the workers' lack of economic resources, and other issues.
Our union, SINTRACARBON, has maintained an important presence in the department of Guajira and in Colombia. We have participated in many social struggles in the region and in the country. We have participated in the struggle for the right to work of those who earn their living working in vehicles that come from Venezuela legally, in mobilizations by small business owners in Maicao, in the campaign for the right to work by gasoline merchants, in mobilizations for better public services, in the demands and demonstrations by the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities for their rights, and others.
Our negotiations will begin in the month of November. We have high hopes of resolving the problems of the communities that have suffered the effects of coal mining and of the workers who have dedicated their working lives to the coal complex.
We thank all of the organizations that can lend us their support in this process.
El Sindicato Nacional de la Industria del Carbon "SINTRACARBON", se apresta a presentar pliego de peticiones a la corporación Carbones del Cerrejón, conformada por las multinacionales Angloamerican, BHP Billiton y Glencore (Xstrata). Esta corporación explota la mina de carbón mas grande del mundo en el complejo carbonifero El Cerrejón en la Guajira colombiana.
El petitorio contiene puntos basicos para resolver como la Salud, Educación, Beneficio de las comunidades, iliquidez económica de los trabajadores y otros aspectos. SINTRACARBON es un sindicato con presencia importante en el departamento de la Guajira y en Colombia.
Este sindicato ha participado en muchas luchas sociales que se han librado en la región y el país, entre ellas hemos participado en la lucha por el derecho al trabajo de las personas que derivan su sustento laborando en vehiculos que vienen legalmente de la república de Venezuela, en las movilizaciones de los comerciantes de Maicao,en el reclamo por el derecho al trabajo de los expendedores de gasolina, en las movilizaciones por reclamar mejores servicios públicos,en las denuncias y movilizaciones de las comunidades indigenas y afrodescendientes por reclamar sus derechos, etc.
La negociación se iniciará en el mes de noviembre y existen grandes expectativas´por resolver problemas de las comunidades que han sufrido los efectos de la explotación carbonifera y por los trabajadores que han entregado su fuerza laboral a este complejo.
Agradecemos a todas las organizaciones hermanas, el apoyo que nos puedan brindar en este proceso.
SINDICATO NACIONAL DE TRABAJADORES DE LA INDUSTRIA DEL CARBON
Personería jurídica No.000109 del 18 de Enero de 1.996
Conocedores de tu capacidad al servicio de las causas de los trabajadores mineros del mundo, SINTRACARBON, organización que agrupa a los trabajadores del consorcio compuesto por las multinacionales: ANGLO AMERICAN, BHP BILLITON Y GLENCORE (XSTRATA) que explota los yacimientos de carbón más grandes de sur América ubicados en la Guajira, Colombia, te extiende esta invitación.
En estos momentos estamos perfeccionando el petitorio que recoge las necesidades de los trabajadores directos, tercerizados y comunidades alrededor del complejo y que presentaremos a la empresa CARBONES DEL CERREJON en el mes de Noviembre de 2006.
Avi, conocemos de tu causa y es por eso que la organización sindical acude a ti para que conjuntamente con otros compañeros nos acompañen en este conflicto para que conjuntamente realicemos un trabajo de campo con los trabajadores, y las comunidades que se encuentran alrededor de la mina y que hoy se encuentran afectadas por la explotación del carbón
La organización sindical se hará responsable de ofrecer las condiciones necesarias para el buen desarrollo de su estancia en nuestro país.
Le agradezco Avi nos informe la fecha en que estarías arribando a la Guajira para desplegar a los compañeros de la organización sindical que estarían con Uds. en dichas tareas.
Con lazos de hermandad,
Jaime Delúquez Díaz
JUNTA DIRECTIVA NACIONAL.
How can you help the victims of our energy policies?
Many people are surprised to learn that coal burned in the Salem power plant, and across the United States, is imported increasingly from Colombia. Low-sulphur coal is Colombia’s third largest export.
Much of this coal is mined in Colombia’s poorest province, La Guajira. Four times the size of Manhattan, El Cerrejón is the world’s largest open-pit coal mine. One by one, small indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that have lived together, farmed, hunted, and fished for centuries, are being destroyed. Company agents illegally wiped the village of Tabaco off the map in 2001 to expand the mine and, on the expanding edge of the pit, the villagers of Tamaquito are being asphyxiated by the dust.
We learned first hand from local villagers and the mineowners about the terrible human impact of this mine when an international group of concerned citizens went on a Witness for Peace delegation to Colombia to visit the mining region in August, 2006.
Healthlink wants to give back something to the communities that have suffered so much in providing energy for our homes and businesses. The women of Guajira have a long tradition of weaving. They have asked us to help their communities survive by bringing their products to Americans.
We will be importing unique and colorful Columbian handbags just in time for Christmas and Channukah gift-giving. The money you pay for these bags goes directly to the women of Tabaco and Tamaquito whose lives, families, and villages are under siege from the impact of the gigantic Cerrejón coal mine.
For more information contact HealthLink at healthlink@healthlink.
org or 781-598-1115 or the North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee at nscolombia@comcast.
net or 978-542-6389.
COLOMBIAN VICTIMS OF OUR ENERGY POLICIES HAVE ASKED FOR OUR HELP
A delegation of academics and labor/social justice activists recently participated in a Witness for Peace fact-finding trip to the coal-producing regions of Colombia.
Power plants in the United States and Canada are major importers of Colombian coal. Now we have the chance to give something back to the people and communities that are affected by the mines.
On Oct. 31, 2006 several participants will return to the remote region of
La Guajira with medical professionals to assess the health needs of the people
affected by the coal mine and to deliver desperately needed medical supplies.
HOW CAN YOU HELP????
The residents of La Guajira suffer from respiratory, eye and skin ailments caused by dry soil and coal dust. We are hoping to fill 2 duffel bags with basic first aid supplies.
Any of the following supplies would be greatly appreciated:
Vitamins for children and adults (particularly C), asthma inhalers, pain killers for adults and children (tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin), bandages/gauze, medical tape, anti-bacterial ointment (polysporin, neosporin, bacitracin), anti-parasitic medicine, Zantac
Collection boxes are located at:
335 Lafayette St. (across from Salem State)
The Bookstore of Gloucester
61 Main St.
For more information contact:
North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee at email@example.com or 978-542-6389
Ellen Gabin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-546-7230
Witness for Peace Delegation “Communities under the Rubble of Cerrejón”
Our time in the Guajira was divided between the city of Riohacha, on the coast, and the area surrounding the Cerrejón mine, in the interior. Way back in 2002 Remedios Fajardo told us about the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the path of destruction by the mine. Tabaco had already been razed in 2001; now Tamaquito, Roche, Chancleta, and Patilla were being slowly ground down into destruction. We visited and met with people from all of these communities, and also had an amazing meeting with Cerrejón officials.
Basically there are four parts of the trip I'll describe: visits to and meetings with residents of Tamaquito, Roche, Chancleta, and Patilla; overnight with the displaced community of Tabaco in resistance; tour and meeting at Cerrejón; and Mining the Connections conference.
COMMUNITY VISITS: We could not visit Tamaquito, because the land around the small settlement has been taken over by the mine and the road practically destroyed. "It's like we're on an island" residents told us. They came down to Chancleta to join us for a large community meeting there. There isn't a single vehicle in Tamaquito--when someone becomes sick, they have to carry them down to the town in a hammock. They have to carry their water in themselves, walking, from Chancleta. There are 30 families, about 80 people, remaining in Tamaquito.
Chancleta is perched just on the edge of the mine--we could see the gaping pit just beyond the houses there. All of these communities seem to be clinging, almost miraculously, to the hot, dry, dusty land that's basically been rendered uninhabitable by the mine. There is no water anywhere, and the Ranchería River that formerly served as a source has been so contaminated that it can't be used at all. Land that was formerly used for farming, hunting, and gathering has been taken over by the mine, and/or rendered barren by the contamination and lack of water. People described almost constant intimidation and harassment by mine security forces. Soldiers from the national army circled our meeting and made themselves at home in the houses around us.
"We have been ancestrally mistreated, humiliated in all ways, intellectually, morally, physically, by the company and by the local and national governments" a community leader from Roche told us. The communities are asking for 1) collective negotiations with the company; 2) relocation; and 3) reparations. The company has tried to divide the communities by insisting on only individual negotiations--offering to buy houses and land from individual owners. What the company has refused to recognize is that the communities in the mining area, whether Afro-Colombian or indigenous, are coherent, collective entities that have developed a communal life over the course of many centuries. The indigenous communities date their collective existence to before 1492; the Afro-Colombian communities' oral histories explain that they were founded in the 18th century by slaves who rebelled against the traders who had enslaved them and freed themselves before reaching land. They landed on the Guajira as free people and founded the communities that are now being destroyed.
The dust in these communities bordering the mine is unimaginable. It permeates your eyes, your skin, your lungs. The children, especially, seem to be constantly coughing.
OVERNIGHT WITH THE DISPLACED COMMUNITY OF TABACO IN RESISTANCE: About 100 families from the former village of Tabaco are still organized and fighting the company for collective relocation. Most of them live in the town of Albania--which is also severely contaminated by the mining operation--with relatives or in inadequate quarters. Jose Julio Perez, who many of you met during his tour of the U.S. last spring, is their elected representative.
"Tabaco in Resistance" invited us to spend the night at a finca (farm) called El Reposo, in La Cruz, that they've identified as the site they would like to be relocated to. The finca belonged to a wealthy landowner, who used it as a sort of resort/party area, so there are some structures built there, fruit trees, and plenty of land for farming and cattle. It's outside of the direct area affected by the mine, and the contrast is startling. A rushing, clean fresh-water stream runs through it providing a constant source of water. It is lush and beautiful. Tabaco residents brought in hammocks for all of us, which they hung in the two thatch structures at night. They brought wood, drinking water, cooking pots, and food to make us dinner and breakfast.
The land now belongs to the owner's 45 children. (Apparently this is not so unusual in the Guajira.) The Tabaco community is hoping they can get them to agree to sell them the land, and they believe that the mining company, and the local government, should help them to buy it and reestablish their community there: "re-weave the social fabric" as several people put it.
MEETING WITH MINE OFFICIALS: This was the first time that the mining company had been confronted with a human rights delegation. We really got the royal treatment. They gathered 14 top mine officials including the head of Public Relations, the Medical Director, the head of Communications for Human Rights, Environment and Sustainable Development, the company lawyer, several company sociologists, social workers, and anthropologists, and many others. They talked to us at length about their wonderful practices in the areas of environment, human rights, and community relations, and also plied us with refreshments and lunch.
They most especially did NOT want to talk about local communities affected by the mine. When questioned, they brought out the company anthropologist, who gave us a long speech about how they have not been able to prove that these communities are truly Afro-Colombian and indigenous. Afro-Colombian communities, company anthropologist Juan Carlos Forero told us, have a special relationship to the land and to nature, and we (that is, the mine) don't think that these communities have truly proven that they have that special relationship.
One thing that came through very clearly in this 6-hour meeting was that the mining companies are very, very concerned about their reputations and about bad publicity. This reconfirmed for us that we CAN help to influence their behavior towards the communities by putting public pressure on them.
MINING THE CONNECTIONS CONFERENCE: The conference opened Tuesday night August 8 with the launching of Armando Pérez Araújo's book, Codicia a Cielo Abierto, or "Open-Pit Greed," a testimonial novel about the impact of mining in the Guajira. It continued all day August 9. We organized two busses to bring in about 80 people from the communities. There was a strong international presence at the conference including of course our delegation, and Garry Leech from the University of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and Steve Striffler from the University of Arkansas, who were both also involved in organizing Jose Julio's tour. From Bogotá, Francisco Ramírez from Sintraminercol and Alirio Uribe from the José Alvear Restrepo lawyers collective both spoke; as did union leaders from the Cerrejón mine and the Drummond mine; solidarity activists from the U.S. and Canada, and members and leaders from affected communities. It was an a wonderful opportunity for many of the different people connected to this issue to meet face to face, talk about issues and strategies, and make plans. The "Boston Group Working Plan" that I sent out a couple of days ago came out of these conversations; I'm confident that others inside and outside of Colombia also left the conference buzzing with ideas and hope.
The communities' demands are clear: collective negotiation, collective relocation, and reparations. They are counting on us to bring the international pressure necessary to make these things happen.
Republic of Colombia
Department of La Guajira
Municipio of Barrancas
Indigenous Community of Tamaquito II
International Group Witness for Peace
Knowing your great spirit of cooperation with the communities, we hope to present you information about our needs and the damages caused by the Cerrejon Mine and its administration.
The Tamaquito II community is suffering greatly from the contamination, and our people are becoming sick from the coal dust from Cerrejon's excavations. They say that we are not within the mine's area of exploitation, but according to the law no community should have to be located less than 10 km from a mining operation. The other thing is that they do not take our community into account in any way. We hope that you can help us so that the mining company will relocate us from here so that we can live comfortably.
We have pursued some projects for relocation with the Municipal Government, but they are just playing around with us [making us "nurse from roosters"] and they have taken away our medical services and medicines, which we have not received now for five (5) months.
We thank you for your attention to our petition and we are sure that you will help us.
Jairo Dionicio Fuentes E.
Governor of the Cabildo [indigenous community government]
Nilson Antonion Ramirez
Secretary of the Cabildo Committee
Short Term Needs
Issues: Sometimes a person from the community becomes ill, and we have to carry them out in a hammock because we have no vehicle with which to take them to the town. We hope that you can help us with our transportation problem to be able to have a vehicle of our own, because we are incomunicado because we don't have one.
Issues: If we had access to medical supplies we would be able to attend to people who became sick while we were waiting to be able to take them to the town.
Issues: The community, as you saw, has no source of work to be able to support our families. We ask for your help in enabling us to keep our families happy and healthy, and we have no place to cultivate our food.
Issues: We have no source of work to enable us to buy materials for our women to carry out their weaving.
Note: Any financial help that you can provide us with, we would like to be sent directly to the community through the Committee of the Cabildo.
Telephone numbers for the Cabildo: 315.672-7675; 315-663-9252; 315-655-9412. [Note: these are cell phone numbers so they do not require the provincial prefix if you are dialing from abroad. From the U.S., you would dial 011 for international access, then 57 for Colombia, then the number as written above.]
We are getting sick because we no longer receive doctor's visits in our community, and we have no medicine. We need these because they took them away. We have no health program and the community has to sacrifice to be able to go to the doctor. We are the only community that does not receive visits from the medical brigade.
The problem comes from the fact that when it rains the community loses its access to the town because the road is impassable. We need our own teacher in the community so that our children will not miss their classes. We hope that with your help we can get the provincial government of La Guajira to name a teacher for our community.
THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY OF TAMAQUITO WILL BE VERY GRATEFUL FOR YOUR GESTURES OF GOOD FAITH AND IT WILL BE A SMALL STEP TOWARDS PEACE.
Long term needs
Indemnization and Relocation of the Community of Tamaquito II
Issues: The community is becoming sick because of the contamination from the mine and they do not let us cultivate in their lands. We cannot raise animals because they also die. We cannot harvest our crops because of the burning of the coal.
Indigenous community of Tamaquito II
A page with 21 signatures follows
CITY OF SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS
WHEREAS: Jose Julio Perez, President of the Community Council of Tabaco, has come before the Mayor and the Salem City Council in support of his fellow villagers; and
WHEREAS: Mr. Perez has been working as an activist on behalf of his fellow villagers whom have been displaced from their homes due to the expansion of the neighboring coal mining plant; and
WHEREAS: Mr. Perez is not only speaking in support of his family and friends in the Northern Columbian village of Tabaco, but also for the rights of employees everywhere; and
WHEREAS: Mr. Perez is seeking support from local Salem officials to administer pressure on Cerrejon Norte, the world’s largest open pit coal mine, to find homes for his fellow displaced villagers, treat their workers humanely, submit to stricter environmental regulations, promote public health and respect human rights; and
WHEREAS: in his campaign to raise awareness of these issues, he also hopes to raise funds in order to hire area scientists to conduct health and environmental impact studies of the mine; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT I, MAYOR KIMBERLEY DRISCOLL, DO HEREBY HONOR, RECOGNIZE AND SUPPORT
JOSE JULIO PEREZ
for his exceptional example of leadership and activism on behalf of his fellow villagers in their fight for public health, the environment, employee rights and social awareness, and, on behalf of the City of Salem, express sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to him for sharing his valuable time, knowledge, and extensive efforts for the well-being of all people and purposes for which he continues to advocate for.
Salem City Council
Resolution on the Cerrejón Mine in Colombia
The following resolution was passed by the Salem City Council, Massachusetts, USA, on April 26, 2006, and forwarded to the Colombian government and the mining companies accused of human rights violations in the Guajira:
WHEREAS, Salem Harbor Station, located in the City of Salem, MA, consumes coal produced in the Cerrejón Zona Norte mine in La Guajira, Colombia;
WHEREAS, since the development of the mine in 1982 the indigenous Wayuu people of La Guajira have been displaced from their lands and had their traditional means of livelihood destroyed by loss of land and industrial contamination;
WHEREAS, in August 2001 the Afro-Colombian village of Tabaco was bulldozed by Exxon Mobil, then half owner of the mine, which included the destruction of many homes, the town’s church and school to make room for expansion of the mine;
WHEREAS, residents of Tabaco appealed to the Colombian Supreme Court for the relocation and reconstruction of their towns;
WHEREAS, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled in May, 2002, in favor of the villagers and their request for relocation and reconstruction of their town, and ordered the Mayor of Hatonuevo to oversee the reconstruction;
WHEREAS, two Colombians, Wayuu leader Remedios Fajardo and Tabaco’s lawyer Armando Pérez Araújo, visited Salem in May, 2002 and in April, 2006 Mr. José Julio Pérez visited Salem to ask for Salem’s support in expressing solidarity with and demanding justice and relocation for the people who live in the mining zone;
WHEREAS; officials of Dominion issued a statement as follows: “Dominion is sympathetic to the problems this village faces. We expect all of our suppliers—domestic and foreign—to adhere to all rules and regulations governing their operations. Dominion would like to see a just resolution to these issues.” (Daniel A. Weekly, Director, Northeast Government Affairs, Dominion Resources, Tuesday, April 18, 2006)
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the City Council of the City of Salem, that the City Council supports the Colombia Supreme Court’s decision and requests that said decision be carried out promptly and effectively, so that the inhabitants of Tabaco can rebuild their community and lead productive, shared lives;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council urges that any further mine expansion be conditioned on peaceful and just negotiations that guarantee residents in the mining area basic human rights: right to live, right to subsistence by one’s own labor, and the right to human dignity;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that as a community hosting a coal powered generating facility, we condemn violations of human rights by all actors involved in Colombia’s conflict, including guerrilla groups, military, paramilitary, police, multinational corporations and foreign agents, including U.S. defense contractors; we express our solidarity with all Colombians working for nonviolent, just, political solutions to the conflict in Colombia, and we encourage the establishment of an ongoing relationship with organizations in the Guajira working peacefully for the human and democratic rights of the Wayuu indigenous people (Yanama) and the villagers of Tabaco (Comité Pro-Reubicación de Tabaco).
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council supports the site visit of La Guajira, Colombia and the Village of Tabaco by the Witness for Peace Delegation.
Published: August 31, 2006 12:00 am
U.S. needs more ambassadors like Salem State professor who visited Colombia
By Brian T. Watson
Two weeks ago, Salem State professor Avi Chomsky and a large delegation returned from a fact-finding and solidarity visit to one of the most troubled coal-producing regions of Colombia.
Chomsky, a history teacher and coordinator of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at the college, was accompanied by other academics, labor and justice activists, and a Witness for Peace contingent.
What Chomsky and the group saw in Colombia clearly illustrates how small our planet has become, how interconnected are nations' economies, and how the political and energy choices that we Americans make, can determine the living conditions of people a continent away.
The northern Colombian province of La Guajira, where the delegation observed environmental conditions and met with local inhabitants, is host to the infamous Cerrejon Norte mine. Three miles wide and 30 miles long, it is perhaps the largest open-pit coal mine in the world, and produces 15 million tons of coal a year - half of Colombia's total output.
The mine is so enormous that it damages the land, air, and water of the region around it. Dust constantly blows off the excavation, rivers and streams are fouled, the water table has been lowered, and the surrounding vegetation and lands are drying out.
The health and livelihoods of hunters, farmers, and villagers in the area are severely and adversely affected. (The farmers do not want mining jobs, and none are offered to locals anyway.)
Additionally, the mine is slowly, but steadily, expanding, and doing so in a crude, undemocratic way. Aided by misguided (or worse) government officials and a questionable permitting process, the mine's corporate owners have repeatedly and autocratically expropriated adjacent lands.
In 2001, in a particularly brutal example of land-taking, in the small village of Tabaco, Colombian military police evicted the residents and held them at bay while mining company bulldozers razed their homes.
Now and in the coming years, dozens of small communities and farms - perhaps 5,000 people - are at similar risk.
Viewed from a distance here in the United States, it is tempting to try to make sense of the strife by seeing the misfortune of native Colombians as the regrettable, but inevitable, by-product and necessary growing pains of an industrializing nation and a nascent capitalist economy. After all, we had our own Industrial Revolution, with its dirty factories, mines, pollution, land degradation, labor exploitation, and other excesses.
But this is not 1850, or even 1950; and the abuses in Colombia today are totally gratuitous and are occurring in a tiny, media-lit world where even the remotest village understands the injustice being perpetrated against it. Furthermore, in increasingly dangerous ways, the continuing assaults on the villages of Colombia wear an American stamp of approval.
Because one-third of Cerrejon's coal is purchased by northeastern U.S. power plants, the eight or nine American energy companies that run our eastern coal plants could exert significant pressure on the owners of the mine to reduce pollution, cease labor abuses, and reimburse and relocate villagers who have been displaced. That American companies don't make bigger objections to human rights abuses in Colombia reflects very poorly on our nation's image.
It is just this sort of foreign-policy-by-default that helps to sow and feed the resentments against American hegemony that we have seen in the Mideastern oil states. And the fact that the social, political, environmental, and human costs of both oil and coal production are in service to gluttonous American consumption, further undermines the legitimacy of our attempts at leadership.
Ironically, private citizens - like Chomsky and her colleagues - are demonstrating the sort of diplomacy and engagement with affected Colombians that the U.S. government might profitably emulate. Chomsky's group met with mine officials, political leaders, union organizers, and villagers threatened by the mine.
The delegation, which hopes to return to the Guajira area again with health professionals in November, will continue to publicize the injustices occurring in the region and will continue to press U.S. power companies to insist on improvements in the operation of the Cerrejon mine.
Brian T. Watson of Swampscott is a regular Viewpoint columnist.
Open letter to the Jyllands Posten and the Danish government
September 16, 2006
We would like to thank the Danish government for its sovereign and honorable decision to stop importing coal from the Drummond mines until the murder of the three members of our union is solved. We understand that this decision follows the articles by Danish journalists Kenneth Lund and Jonas Forsto in the Jyllands Posten about the situation of unionists in the coal mines in Colombia.
The 4,200 unionists who have been killed in the past 20 years, one every six days during the time that Alvaro Uribe Velez has been president, and the 49 killed this year, are evidence of the tragedy that we have been experiencing. As unionists we are trying to build a just future for our country and for our families. These murders of our members are a clear outcome of the policies that the governments of Colombia and the United States, along with the multinationals investing in our country, are imposing on our country.
Only a small number of foreign governments, including Denmark's, have taken steps to support us. The Danish government's admirable decision to stop importing coal until the unionists' murders are solved will let the companies, and the Colombian government, know that they cannot go on killing union leaders as a means of "protecting" their enormous profits, at the cost of the lives and safety of people like us who are operating within our legal rights that are guaranteed by national and international law.
Repression against the workers at the Drummond mine has continued as a result of the legal strike that we carried out last summer. Workers are being subjected to disciplinary procedures, firings, persecution, death threats, lawsuits, harassment on the job, etc. But we are sure that the measure you have taken in support of our rights will help to force the
company to stop its illegal and repressive acts.
We call upon world opinion, in the name of all of the victims of this genocide, to continue to press for our rights and lives to be respected. We invite the governments of other countries to follow Denmark's example, and to put an end to the crimes that have been committed against Colombian unionists.
We thank you for your honorable and committed support.
Estivenson Avila Pertuz
President, El Paso Local
Sintramienergetica [Mining and Energy Workers Union]
Francisco Ramirez Cuellar
General Secretary, Funtraenergetica [Federation of Energy Workers]
Template for letters of support for SINTRACARBON negotiations
1. We receive coal from the Cerrejon mine
2. The union at the mine, Sintracarbon, will begin contract negotiations on November 1.
3. The union has taken a courageous and unprecedented step in including in its bargaining proposal a demand that the collective rights of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities affected by the mine be recognized and addressed.
4. The communities are asking for COLLECTIVE NEGOTIATIONS; COLLECTIVE RELOCATION; AND REPARATIONS
5. The labor movement in Colombia has been the target of all-out assault in the past 20 years. Several thousand union leaders and activists have been killed. Not a single one of these murders has been resolved. Assassinations often occur during contract negotiations. In 2001, three union leaders at another U.S.-owned coal mine in the neighboring province were murdered.
6. The government of Denmark has suspended coal purchases from the Drummond mine (where union leaders were killed) until the court case in the U.S. charging Drummond with complicity in the murders is resolved.
1. Absolute respect for international labor norms and human rights and the lives and integrity of Sintracarbon members and all Cerrejon workers during the bargaining process and beyond. No military involvement in any labor dispute that might arise. (In the 1990s the mine was occupied by the army on several occasions during labor negotiations.)
2. That the mine recognize the collective rights of the communities and the union’s demand that these rights be recognized
3. That Dominion Energy urge the mine to negotiate in good faith with the union, not militarize any labor dispute, and acknowledge the collective rights of the communities.
1. Our support for the unions, workers and peasants of Colombia who are struggling peacefully for a more just distribution of the country’s resources
2. Our support for the rights of Tabaco, Tamaquito, Chancleta, Roche and Patilla to collective negotiation, collective relocation, and reparations
3. Our support for Sintracarbon in its struggle for the rights of unionized workers, contract workers, and communities in the mining region.
Message to Lucy Corchado, April 2006
Mike Fitzgerald, Malia Griffin and Jim Smith briefed us on last Thursday's
meeting with Jose Perez, Avi Chomsky and yourself concerning the Cerrejon
Norte coal mine issue.
As I am sure you discussed while Salem Harbor utilizes very little coal
from this specific mine, we understand this may be not be an isolated
issue in Columbia.
Mike indicated that Salem City Council may be issuing another resolution
addressing this matter and you would like a statement from Dominion.
The following is our statement on this matter:
"Dominion is sympathetic to the problems this village faces. We expect
all of our suppliers -- domestic and foreign -- to adhere to all rules and
regulations governing their operations. Dominion would like to see a
just resolution to these issues."
If you would like to discuss further or if you have any questions or
concerns, please feel free to contact me at (860)444-5271 or Malia
Griffin at (978)744-0390.
Thanks again for your time and attention on this matter.
Coal Americas, July 24, 2006
Dominion Virginia Power lines up deals for imported coal
Dominion Virginia Power lines up deals for imported coal Dominion Virginia Power has reportedly completed deals for 1.0 million short tons of imported coal. While details are sketchy, a large portion of the volume is rumored to be Cerrejon coal. The coal will be burned at the Chesapeake Energy Center, which will take imported coal exclusively starting next year.
Dominion is constructing a coal pier at the Chesapeake Energy Center. However, the utility will have to continue railing coal to the Energy Center until the pier is completed, scheduled for mid-year 2007.
Platts International Coal Report, July 3, 2006
Dominion eyes expanded foreign coal burn at Virginia, NC plants
US power utilities Dominion Virginia Power and Dominion North Carolina Power have asked state regulators to approve an agreement to have Virginia Power Energy Marketing arrange complicated contracts to secure and deliver low-sulfur foreign coal to the utilities, other Dominion coal plants, and coal plants owned by others.
In their filings with the Virginia State Corporation Commission and the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the two utilities said that due to sharp increases in the price of Appalachian coal, the utilities require "greater latitude in their procurement of fuel, particularly coal from international sources and non-traditional supply regions."
By buying coal jointly for the utilities and other large customers "and thereby transporting larger quantities in larger vessels," they said, VPEM "can negotiate more economic terms and may, at times, be able to purchase and deliver coal at a lower overall price than from the central Appalachian region."
VPEM is part of Dominion's unregulated business and is part of Dominion Clearinghouse, said Dominion Virginia spokesman Dan Genest. VPEM already buys low-sulfur South American coal for two of Dominion's unregulated coal plants--the 1,100-MW Brayton Point facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, and the 312-MW Salem Harbor facility in Salem, Massachusetts--and Dominion Virginia has been exploring the possibility of buying similar coal for its 595-MW Chesapeake station in Chesapeake, Virginia.
"If we can have [VPEM] purchase coal for us, too, we would save on transportation costs," Genest said. "The more coal you ship, the less you pay per ton to ship it."
The utilities noted in their filings that they are planning to build a coal pier at the Chesapeake station by the summer of 2007 that will be capable of receiving up to 30,000 short tons of coal at a time (PCT 8/18/05).
The utilities said that they need regulatory approval to purchase coal directly from VPEM instead of coal producers, and to have VPEM arrange delivery of the coal to the plants. To ensure that the transactions would be fair to utility ratepayers, the terms of the agreement between VPEM and the utilities call for the energy-marketing affiliate to sell coal to them at the lower of the "cost at the delivery point" and the "market price at the delivery point."
In the event that the utilities had excess coal due to operational circumstances, they could sell the coal back to VPEM at the higher of cost at the delivery point and the market price at the delivery point.
The U.S. Coal Review, February 4, 2005
Dominion active on import scene as it rounds up coal for new plants
Dominion is active on the import scene, according to various sources, its attention on the Brayton Point and Salem Harbor stations, which it acquired only recently.
Dominion is focused on compliance and super-compliance coals, including some of what you’d expect – Colombian – and some that’s a bit different: Russian coal, which is available to the utility market in the U.S. on an economic basis occasionally and which suits Dominion’s current needs.
Dominion is “trying to stockpile SO2 allowances,” according to one source, and Russian coal containing 0.3% sulfur is an attractive option. Glencore probably is supplying some of the coal.
But the most recent “volume” buy for the Massachusetts generating stations was from Colombia, sources said – maybe 300,000 metric tonnes or more, recently. CMC is the likely supplier.
Of course, Brayton Point and Salem Harbor must deal with among the strictest sulfur emissions limitations in the U.S.
“I heard they bought some Russian,” a source with international connections said. “My understanding is that they’re going to try to bring some Russian into Massachusetts.”
South African coal, which is now $15/metric tonne or so lower in price than its Colombian counterpart, also could be an attractive option for Dominion. South African coal might also allow Dominion to “save a little bit on SO2 allowances” in comparison to available Colombian tonnage, a source said.
In relation to the $15 difference in the price of the coal, “the freight difference is not that great,” the source said.
Coal exported out of Richards Bay is “being offered in the mid-$40s a metric tonne with no buying interest in Europe,” a source said.
Frankly, reports concerning Dominion have been somewhat contradictory.
One reliable source said he is aware of Dominion buying some coal, “rebound coal,” from European consumers that have excess because of the mild winter across the drink.
“I’ve heard those prices are a lot lower than that $60 number” utilities have paid recently for Colombian coal, the source said. “I have been told that some vessels have changed hands.”
“I think that’s a rumor,” another source, who is also quite reliable, countered. “I don’t see how that could work,” he said, citing logistics. “It seems a little odd to me.”
The second source did say that Dominion has “bought a lot of coal, but still has coal to buy.”
Most of the coal Dominion has purchased for Brayton Point and Salem Harbor in the recent past has been supplied by Glencore from the new Calenturitas mine in Colombia that was opened in July 2004, perhaps in concert with La Jagua coal, which is high in calorific content. [NOTE: UNTIL MAY 2006 GLENCORE OWNED 1/3 OF THE CERREJON MINE. IN MAY GLENCORE’S COAL HOLDINGS WERE BOUGHT BY XSTRATA, A COMPANY THAT GLENCORE ITSELF OWNS 40% OF.]
“A lot of that was done before the actual changeover” in ownership of the Massachusetts plants, according to a source.
Colombian coal prices aren’t likely to dive soon, it seems, despite the anemic winter demand for steam coal in Europe and the fact that South African prices have plummeted to 11-month lows.
“Some consumers in Europe are selling cargoes, but they’re all non-South American cargoes,” a source said. “There may be some cheap South African tonnage available. Constellation has been trying to buy some cargoes that were sold to National Coal Supply Corporation in Israel and has been rejected.”
“I don’t see the Europeans giving up a lot of tons,” a source said.
And one source who recently tried to purchase some Colombian coal for re-sale into the U.S. said “a major buyer in Europe said recently, ‘No more the first half.”
“Unlike everything else in Europe, it’s the one that people won’t let go of,” another source said.
Utilities looking for South American tonnage?
“Best of luck always is what we used to write in our yearbooks,” a source said.
Coal Americas, February 2005
Russian coal for Brayton Point and Salem Harbor plants? Unconfirmed reports suggest Dominion has purchased a few cargoes of Russian coal for the Brayton Point and Salem Harbor power plants in Massachusetts. Dominion also purchased about 300,000 tons of Cerrejon coal from Glencore at a price in the $60.00/tonne FOB range, based on 11,300 Btu/lb. Colombian coal is not unusual for the Brayton Point and Salem Harbor plants, but Russian coal is something of a novelty. Sources said Dominion is trying to stockpile SO2 allowances and the Russian coal, with a 0.3% sulfur content, is an attractive option. South African coal, which is currently commanding prices in the $45.00/tonne FOB Richards Bay range, could also be an attractive option for the power plants. Salem Harbor has burned Colombian coal from the Calenturitas and La Jagua mines in Colombia on a regular basis, both supplied by Glencore.