A total of 35 indigenous communities in northern Colombia's La Guajira province have blocked coal producer Cerrejon's railway, demanding 1.5 billion pesos ($393,643) in compensation for the use of their ancestral land.
The protest was being staged from September 14 by some 220 indigenous people. They also restricted the passage of Cerrejon vehicles through the area, only allowing the movement of travellers, vehicles for developing wind energy and food and health services and something else alike.
The argued that the amount of compensation is based on the profits made by Cerrejon's coal exports from 1985 to 2020, which amounted to 92.57 trillion pesos.
Cerrejon's railway has capacity to transport around 148,500 tonnes a day, according to the mining firms 2019 sustainability report.
"We are tired of so many delays on the part of Cerrejon to reach an offer of compensation to which we indigenous communities are entitled for 40 years of ecological, cultural and religious damage, and they have shown reluctance to reach an understanding," said the representative of the Governor of the Cabildo of Miechyn, Pedro Pablo Puerto Mejía.
So far in 2021, there have been 45 blockades on the Cerrejon railway line, more than 50% of which were due to issues unrelated to the operation, such as employability issues and disagreements between institutions and other companies in the region.
Cerrejon rejected the de facto actions and reiterated the search for a dialogue agreement, within the framework of the prior consultation process.
"The company respects the spaces for dialogue and the right to prior consultation with ethnic communities, so it will continue to promote constructive dialogue with the communities neighboring its operations and other stakeholders, and to operate in a manner respectful of the human rights of employees, contractors and neighboring communities," it said.
(Writing by Alex Guo Editing by Harry Huo)
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