Mining strips away earth, prevents regrowth in forest areas and pollutes rivers. Despite its known impact, mining – often in an illegal form – is expanding in regions of South America that are known for their nature and wildlife. Both nature and humans are paying the cost.

The trend in mining expansion in South America dates from the mid-1990s. The large scale investments in exploration and exploitation have been steadily growing to an alarming rate due to the high demands for basic minerals by countries all over the world. An increase in the number of mining projects is a result of the expansions of transnational corporations that are given a free ride and concessions throughout the region at the cost of nature and human life.

The Amazon forest is a staggering example. Largest terrestrial carbon sink and a key front in the fight against climate change, it has become a host to a thriving criminal underworld.

It is believed that illegally mined gold has overtaken cocaine to become Peru and Colombia’s most lucrative illicit export. According to a news report – from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime – the shift from drug cultivation to criminal mining in many Latin American countries is fuelling “staggering” human rights abuses and wrecking the environment.

In Colombia alone, the government believes it will take nearly $11bn and 25-40 years to reverse the damage caused by mining. In Peru, it is thought that illegal gold mining destroys 5-10 hectares (12.35-24.7 acres) of national protected rainforest areas each day in Madre de Dios.

Prof Aviva Chomsky of Salem University in Massachusett revealed some shocking facts about the connection between Ireland and the heinous crime in Colombia that has affected thousands of indigenous people. She says using coal from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines in northern Colombia cannot be justified by ESB and other energy utilities, given its impact on human rights and contribution to climate change.

She says the scale of environmental damage caused by the Cerrejón mine in the La Guajira region of Colombia amounted to “the fourth conquest of remote regions of South America”. According to her findings, since 2011 the coal produced in these mines were used at Moneypoint Power Station in Co. Clare and has caused irreparable damage.

Coal Marketing Company (CMC) is the company responsible for the exclusive marketing of coal from the mine and is based in Dublin, they have coordinated the sale and delivery of over 450 million tonnes of Cerrejón coal.

Just a few months ago, indigenous and afro-descendent communities in the state of La Guajira launched a legal challenge against ESB’s coal supplier in the region. Groups in Dublin have shown their support to the people of La Guajira by staging a protest in front of CMC’s headquarters:

“Ireland is complicit in the documented human rights violations inflicted on local communities by the Cerrejón mine, as the ESB imports this coal, and the mine’s global sales company is located in Ireland,” said Sian Cowman from the Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC), calling ESB to immediately divest from Colombian coal.

An account of the grim reality faced by the Wayuu people, who have lived in the region for centuries, and the hundreds of local activists who have been murdered defending their land may definitely throw light at the darkness faced by them. Watch it here:  and





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Image courtesy of Jenny Mealing via Flickr


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