Efforts against blood coal still lacking results

Image: Een van de slachtoffers van de mijnbouwindustrie in Colombia. Tot op de dag van vandaag hebben de slachtoffers nooit erkenning of genoegdoening van de bedrijven gekregen voor wat hen is aange

November 16, 2015

The five years spent discussing ways to tackle ‘blood coal’ from Colombia have not lead to any significant results. That is the conclusion PAX has come to after reading the progress report on the efforts of energy companies and the Dutch government to achieve a socially responsible coal supply chain

In the report, Dutch energy companies and the Dutch government give a joint account of their efforts to solve the problems that persist in the coal chain. There was, however, little emphasis on results in the chain itself. Victims of severe human rights violations in the Colombian mining area, where energy companies buy their coal, are still waiting for signs of real progress. As a result, millions of Dutch households are still being provided with electricity that has been generated with blood coal. Marianne Moor of PAX:  ‘What is most evident from the progress report is the lack of actual progress. The energy companies’ coal suppliers refuse to take steps to reconcile with the victims, despite positive developments in the Colombian peace process.’

Lawsuit reveals unwillingness to accept responsibility
PAX is pleased that energy companies have, for the first time, revealed the efforts they have undertaken in this area. However, there is no mention in the report of any concrete results in the mining region itself, which suggests that mining companies Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore have made little if any effort themselves. In fact, one could argue they have taken a few steps back. Drummond initiated proceedings this year against several human rights lawyers, and both mining companies dismissed a large number of members of the only remaining independent trade union this summer.

Ban on imports if talks do not materialise
On a more positive note, the energy companies acknowledge that their petition to the mining companies to open talks with the victims must lead to tangible results; if these talks do not materialise, a ban or temporary ban on imports could be the outcome. Marianne Moor: ‘The time for talking is now over. The energy sector must make it crystal clear that mining companies Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore have to take concrete steps to reconcile with victims of the violence. Otherwise, it’s time to reconsider trade relationships.’

Victims remain disregarded and empty-handed
According to several sworn testimonies, suppliers of Dutch energy companies – mining giants Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore – have supported illegal paramilitary groups in the Cesar mining region by providing money and strategic information. Between 1996 and 2006, at least 3,100 people were killed and at least 55,000 people were driven from their land. To this day, the victims have never received recognition or reparations from the companies for what they have suffered. Many victims who stand up for their rights are intimidated.

Peace process offers mining companies an opening
The peace process in Colombia presents a unique opportunity to conclude this dark chapter. A few weeks ago, PAX sent an open letter to the mining companies (to Drummond and Prodeco/Glencore) urging them to seize that opportunity with both hands. The energy companies have also called on them to take part in a process of reconciliation. Marianne Moor: ‘Hopefully, the mining companies will at last show their goodwill. Otherwise, people will be asking when the Dutch energy companies are finally going to draw a line in the sand. The ‘blood coal’ strategy is not only about talking and report-writing but also about pressing ahead and getting results.’

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