Swedish energy company Vattenfall is carrying out a three-week investigation into human rights violations associated with coal mining in Colombia. This week they are visiting the Cesar coal region, where thousands of people have been murdered and tens of thousands driven from their land.
The majority of European coal imported from Colombia comes from this region, including the coal used by Vattenfall. PAX and Amsterdam local councillor Jasper Groen (GroenLinks) are also in Cesar this week, acting as observers of the investigation.
Two Corporate Social Responsibility experts from the energy company are now in Cesar speaking to past victims of human rights violations, to activists currently being systematically threatened, and to the mining companies Drummond and Prodeco. They have already held discussions with the Colombian authorities in Bogota, the country's capital.
Threats and violence continue in Cesar
Last December, Martijn Hagens, COO of Vattenfall's Dutch subsidiary Nuon, announced on Dutch national TV Vattenfall wanted to carry out its own investigation into the 'blood coal' atrocities in Cesar. PAX is delighted that Vattenfall is keeping its promise. It is vital that the energy companies see and hear for themselves the problems surrounding the blood coal that they import: tens of thousands of victims of paramilitary violence are still waiting for recognition and compensation, while threats to people standing up for their rights continue. Campaign leader Wouter Kolk: 'It's great that Vattenfall - one of the energy companies importing Colombian coal - is making a serious effort here. We also note that the Vattenfall investigators are being very thorough. We can't wait to read their findings, and especially the consequences that they draw from this investigation.'
Agreements between mining and energy companies hoped for
PAX hopes that the visit by Nuon and Vattenfall will result in clear agreements between energy and mining companies to deal with the current violence against activists and local leaders, and in concrete steps to compensate the thousands of victims of grave human rights violations in the recent past.
See also In depth: Stop Blood CoalNatural Resources, Conflict & Human Rights, Colombia