Coal miner Cerrejon says reached deal with indigenous community on environment, health

BOGOTA, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Colombian coal mine Cerrejon said on Friday it has signed an agreement with a Wayuu indigenous community to comply with court-ordered environmental and health requirements.

The Provincial community in La Guajira has long argued with the company, which is jointly owned by BHP Group, Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc, over pollution, dust, noise, water use and health problems.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court previously ordered Cerrejon to comply with requirements aimed at protecting health and the environment, while a United Nations Special Rapporteur last year called on the government to suspend some of the mine’s operations on the concerns.

The agreement, which the company said was signed by Cerrejon and the leader of Provincial, includes building a community health center and an environmental rehabilitation program, which will include planting 250,000 trees.

The company will implement a court-ordered program to clean community facilities and nearby areas over the next five years and will also provide technical support for measuring air quality, the statement shared by Cerrejon said.

“The perfecting of this agreement is a result of a consensus by the members of the reservation, with the participation of traditional authorities, the community head, leaders and a full community assembly,” the statement said.

The Provincial community would not recognize any statements which did not come from its authorities, the statement added.

Lawyers representing the community members who requested the intervention by the Special Rapporteur last year and who rejected an initial deal with Cerrejon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company was battered last year by a record 91-day strike and reduced activity while it put in place coronavirus control measures.

The miner produced 12.4 million tonnes of coal in 2020, down almost 52{b5d304c96e94113bdfc523ff4218a1efff4746200bdb9eeb3214a56a1302f2e4} from 2019, and its exports fell to their lowest in the last 18 years. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Richard Chang)

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