Monica Feria-Tinta has secured an intervention by the United Nations in the case of the Cerrejón mine, brought by indigenous Wayuu people before the UN Special Procedures seeking the halting of operations near Wayuu settlements in the context of COVID-19. The mining company, Cerrejón, is independently operated and belongs in equal parts to subsidiaries of the international mining companies BHP, Anglo American and Glencore.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on environment and human rights, David Boyd, released today a public statement calling for the halting of mining operations by Cerrejón mine, near Wayuu settlements located next to the mine.
The statement issued today in Geneva reads:
“Breathing polluted air and not having enough clean water puts people at greater risk of becoming sick, […] during the coronavirus pandemic, this can be a deadly threat. “The science is clear; people living in areas that have experienced higher levels of air pollution – such as that around the El Cerrejón mine – face increased risk of premature death from COVID-19,” Special Rapporteur on environment and human rights, David Boyd said.
“The Cerrejón mine is also the largest water polluter in the region. The company not only diverts and uses a huge number of streams and tributaries, but also pours back water contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals. In response to this the company has helped to truck water to residents, but […] the water pollution had denied the communities of access to clean water in the first place. “This has made the Wayúu community more dependent on the alternative source of water and leaves them more exposed to the risk of COVID-19,” Special Rapporteur David Boyd added.
The Statement further pointed out: “It is absolutely vital that Colombia protect the indigenous peoples’ rights to life, health, water, sanitation, and a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment by halting mining close to the Provincial reserve until it can be made safe.” “I further call on the mining company to increase its effort to prevent further harm to people and also to ensure that those who have been negatively impacted have access to effective remedy.”
Monica Feria-Tinta who acted in the case instructed by CAJAR said: “I welcome this pronouncement by the UN Special Procedures. The right to a healthy environment is a fundamental right. The Wayuu women who brought this claim did so, in the hope to protect the right to life of their children and of their communities in the context of COVID-19”.
Special Rapporteur David Boyd’s call was endorsed by Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and Ms. Anita Ramasastry (Chair), Mr. Dante Pesce (Vice-Chair), Mr. Surya Deva, Ms. Elżbieta Karska, and Mr. Githu Muigai, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Mr Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to water and sanitation, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, and Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.