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Relationship of Mining & Indigenous Human Rights

As natural resources are depleted, indigenous people find themselves forced to defend their land with little to no support from local governments.  Governments, ignoring the consequences of selling off their natural resources are willfully compromising the future of the planet by devastating their environmental resources and ignoring the cultural effects of these activities in favour of short term economic gains.
In an effort to inform our online community, Colombia IndiArts will address reported events as they unfold in South America and other parts of the world. We believe that indigenous people deserve protection and we look to encourage improvements in industry practices with respect to human rights and environmental practices across multiple industries including mining, agriculture, logging, fishing and other activities that without proper control, put our world and other species at risk. Change begins with knowledge and awareness. By seeing a connection in our economic choices (and buying from smaller independent ethically sourced artisans) you can avoid funding industries with questionable practices.
Current reported events:
Amazon Basin (Brazil)
Members of an“unregistered” indigenous tribe in Brazil were brutally murdered this past August by illegal miners in the municipality of Sao Paulo de Olivenca in the border between Perú and Colombia.
Why is this happening?
There are increasing occurrences of land disputes in remote places in Brazil. Many indigenous people are being killed or forced to leave their home as they oppose mining and forestry companies exploiting and damaging their territory. This particular region of the Amazon is significantly rich in minerals and attracts many miners.

Although, at least 14 “unregistered” indigenous tribes and 5 “registered” tribes  are settled on this land, these tribes have no say on the exploitation of their home. The Brazilian government has failed to recognize indigenous lands and has offered no sovereignty or protection. These  “unregistered” tribes are in the process of being introduced to public ministry; however, so little is currently known about them that there is no available  information on their language or customs.

Moreover, the public ministry of Brazil is investigating other cases of potential slaughters against members of another Brazilian indigenous group: “Warikama Djapar”. There are rumours a massacre took place where potentially as many as 20 indigenous people were slaughtered, investigations are still on the way.
La Guajira (Colombia)
La Guajira is located in the North-East of Colombia and has been home of the Wayuu indigenous people since the beginning of their existence. The Wayuus are the largest indigenous group of the country, who continue their native way of life by conserving their traditions and culture .They fight against the mining industries and have seen first hand the disaster and irreversible effects the mining activity has had in their land and on their people. Sadly, their efforts to stop the mining company Cerrejon have not been supported by the local government, who state that: “Local affected communities need to be consulted, but the company doesn’t require to obtain their consent” for its operation.  
Balch, Oliver “Cerrejon mine in Colombia: can it address its human rights risks? The Guardian.
people filling tanks with water in colombia
People fill tanks with water from a water truck brought by a Bogota-based NGO that supplies water to more than 32 communities around the municipality of Manaure in La Guajira every day. (Nicolò Filippo Rosso, https://thelily.com/forgotten-in-the-dust-of-northern-colombia-52252ffae21d)

The Cerrejon has stood accused of environmental destruction, political collusion and human rights abuses, especially against the Wayúu people for several years now. Despite this, at the end of last year, Colombian governmental entities in charge of granting permissions to mining companies,  gave permission to the Cerrejon to divert Bruno stream about 3.6 km and expand the limits of the coal mine. The Cerrejon is the largest open pit mine in Colombia, South America's largest and one of the largest in the world, with this expansion the project will go from exporting 32 to 40 million tons of coal per year.

Enough is Enough!

It is widely known in Colombia that La Guajira is a really dry region, that by the nature of its location and climate many rivers have dried up naturally; however, the national government ignores this and allows the Cerrejon to take over one of the scarce water resources in this area. There is no doubt that the coal mining operation has changed the dynamics of the water in this region as well as contaminating both the air and water. The air contamination has caused chronic respiratory diseases in Wayuu people, while many of them die of poor nutrition, and illnesses stemming from contaminated drinking water.

The Cerrejon has removed 35 communities from their traditional territories. Although there has been some financial compensation, none were resettled. As a result, “The social fabric of these rural communities was broken and many individuals drifted to precarious lives in nearby cities”

Source: Balch, Oliver “Cerrejon mine in Colombia: can it address its human rights risks? The Guardian.

The irony of the situation is that despite promises of further economic development, Cerrejon’s mining has not translated into a better quality of life for locals. The Guajira remains one of the poorest regions in Colombia.
Witten by Paola Perdomo and Valentina Pinzon
Edited by Kat Gracie

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