Corporate accountability in conflict areas: coalmining in northern Colombia

In various areas of Colombia, large-scale development projects, such as mineral extraction, infrastructure, or industrial agriculture, are intertwined with the armed conflict. For example, coal mining in northern Colombia has, intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to large-scale human rights violations, of which the local peasant population has fallen victim.

Context & Urgency

Mining is considered one of the main drivers of development and economic growth in Colombia. However, little attention is paid to human rights violations in conflict areas where mining takes place. In the northern region of Cesar, the armed conflict between 1996 and 2006 had serious consequences for the local population, which were not addressed by the government or the powerful mining companies that started their extraction at the peak of the violence.

Today, the security situation in areas where mining and oil extraction take place is still worrying. Even after the signing of the 2016 peace agreement, human rights defenders and trade union leaders are regularly threatened and intimidated by illegal armed actors, while the state suspends protection measures and largely ignores security risks for local populations. Attacks and targeted killings of social leaders have increased alarmingly in recent years.

Contact information

Joris van de Sandt, Policy lead Natural Resources & Latin America,

Watch the film below that Joeri Bleumer made for PAX. During the most violent war years, about 55 thousand farmers were displaced in the department of Cesar. To this day, a very large number of them are still waiting for their land to be returned so they can rebuild their lives.

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Stop Blood Coal campaign

With the Stop Blood Coal campaign, PAX is working to make the abuses in Cesar and local peace initiatives visible and to mobilise people here to act for the victims in Colombia. Watch one of the campaign videos below. Read more about the Stop Blood Coal campaign

Activiteiten & resultaten

Blood Coal from Cesar

Since 2012 PAX has been investigating the history of human rights violations near large coal mines in Cesar. The mines are operated by the mining companies Drummond, based in the US, and Prodeco, part of Swiss Glencore. These companies supply large quantities of coal to energy producers in the Netherlands and other European countries.

Since then, PAX has been supporting the regional victims’ organisation Asamblea Campesina del Cesar. This organisation defends the rights of farmers who have been violently displaced from their land. It promotes dialogue between victims and various actors in the region, including mining companies, to achieve recognition, truth, and reparations, as well as security guarantees. It is also engaging with European energy companies that purchase coal in Colombia, asking them to use their influence to convince the mining companies to contribute to effective remedy for the victims.

In addition, PAX is using campaigns, lobbying activities, and international networks to make the abuses in Cesar and local peace initiatives visible and to mobilise people here to act for the victims in Colombia.

Read  report The dark side of coal.

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