for Economic Co-operation and Development)29.
In response to the criticism, in 2007 BHP Billiton and the other two multinational companies involved in Cerrejon Coal (Anglo American and Xstrata) commissioned an Independent Panel of Investigation to look into Cerrejon Coal’s social programmes and its general impacts on local communities30. The Panel found substance in much of the criticism that had been levelled at the company. It made a number of recommendations, particularly concerning a just settlement for the people of Tabaco. The Panel recommended, among other things, that Cerrejon Coal work with the Tabaco Relocation Committee as well as with other former residents of the village to ensure just compensation, buy collective land for agriculture and help construct a church and community centre for common use by former residents. The Panel also recommended that in future open, transparent negotiations take place with communities badly affected by the proximity of the mine, leading to collective relocation with community consent31.
Cerrejon Coal and its three multinational shareholders, including BHP Billiton, broadly accepted the Panel’s recommendations32. Negotiations with the Tabaco Relocation Committee led to an agreement in December 2008 which, according to the Relocation Committee’s lawyer, contained most of what the Committee had been struggling for, including the purchase of a piece of land to which families from the former settlement could be moved, in order to continue their life together as farmers33. Negotiations began with other small farming communities facing relocation as the mine expands – Roche, Chancleta, Patilla and Tamaquitos.
But conflict continues. There has been strong criticism of the levels of financial compensation in the Tabaco agreement. Provision of infrastructure to the new community – roads, drainage, electricity – is the responsibility of the local authority, and therefore relies on good will from the local mayor. The land being bought by the company is sufficient for housing but insufficient for farming on the scale practiced at Tabaco. It is still unclear how people will make a living34.
Difficulties also remain for the communities currently facing displacement. A Peruvian research organisation, Social Capital Group, is making recommendations to company and communities about the relocation process, and some of the communities are being advised by a Colombian NGO, Indepaz, at the company’s expense. But disagreements persist over the number of people subject to relocation, the need for productive land in the relocated settlements, how to compensate for the disruption to people’s lives over the past decade and more, and the fact that the communities’ consent to the mine was never sought in the first place. In recent years, people have found it almost impossible to support themselves as mining expansion has encroached on agricultural land, and while the relocation process is under way people will have no means at all of supporting themselves. The pressures under which communities are living cause disputes. Community members accuse Cerrejon Coal of undermining their community leadership, taking decisions without consultation, publishing relocation timetables on the company’s website without informing the communities, calling meetings at short notice and causing confusion and divisions by
29 Jeremy Roberts and Andrew Trounson, Miner accused of evicting townsfolk, 3 July 2007, http:// www.minesandcommunities.org//article.php?a=2131&highlight=Cerrejon
30 Independent Third Party Review information, Cerrejon Coal website, http://www.cerrejoncoal.com/secciones/CERWEB/ENGHOME/MENUPRINCIPAL/NUESTRACOMUNIDAD/COMITEIND/seccion_HTML.jsp
31 Cerrejon Coal and Social Responsibility, Final report of the Independent Panel of Investigation,
February 2008, http://www.cerrejoncoal.com/formas/425/Cerrejon%20Panel%20Final%20e%20v%20
32 Response to the Independent Panel’s Assessment of Cerrejon’s Social Engagement Practices, 11
April 2008, http://www.cerrejoncoal.com/secciones/CERWEB/ENGHOME/MENUPRINCIPAL/NUESTRACOMUNIDAD/
33 Personal communications between Richard Solly and Armando Perez, December 2008, reflected
in Richard Solly, Colombia: Seven year long peoples’ struggle achieves a victory,
34 Personal communication between community members, overseas supporters and author, May