Mining company Prodeco-Glencore seems to take steps in seriously assessing its human rights impact in mining region of Cesar. In its recently published Sustainability Report the Swiss mining company acknowledges the possibility of ‘complicity with human rights abuses by the armed forces’ and being ‘linked to breaches of international humanitarian law.’
PAX Colombia program lead Joris van de Sandt: “It is important that this Sustainability Report shows that Prodeco-Glencore publicly acknowledges that it possibly contributed to human rights abuses in Cesar. It is long overdue, but now this has to lead to an assessment of Prodeco’s role and identification of acts and omissions during the armed conflict.”
Blood coal background
Prodeco-Glencore and its competitor Drummond set up their operations in the mining region Cesar in the midst of a heavy conflict. Parallel to the setup of industrial mining, paramilitaries started operating in the region and between 1996-2006 displaced 55,000 farmers and killed over 3,100 people. Mining companies benefitted from the violence and failed to take proper measures that are expected from companies starting to operate in a high-risk conflict zone. Prodeco-Glencore’s Sustainability Report is an interesting first step to reflect on this and further identify the role of mining companies during the armed conflict.
What victims want
For years victim communities have asked the mining companies to engage in a dialogue about their role during the conflict, truth finding and joint efforts to rebuilt lives and the creation of peaceful co-existence. Victims united in the Asamblea Campesina have formally invited Prodeco-Glencore to start such a dialogue. Many energy companies such as Vattenfall, Uniper, RWE and Engie have called upon their coal suppliers to begin a process of reconciliation with victims of human rights violations in order to turn a painful page of history. Neither Drummond nor Prodeco-Glencore has started such a dialogue.
Besides European energy companies, this call has been supported by several Colombian institutions. The National Centre for Historical Memory recently published a lengthy report on conflict, human rights and mining in Cesar in which it concluded: “Multinationals and other economic actors must evaluate the human rights liabilities of their predecessors and / or themselves, in order to remedy and repair them in light of international business standards on human rights and the rights of victims." Van de Sandt: “Now that Prodeco-Glencore is publicly acknowledging that it might have contributed to human rights abuses, they should not waste any time and sit down with victims and start a dialogue on truth and the restoration of the lives, livelihoods and dignity of the victims."