Public Statement:  Colombian government authorises further destruction of Arroyo Bruno in La Guajira 

Dry riverbed of the Bruno stream in southern department of La Guajira, Colombia Photo: April 2022

On April 6 Government institutions announced their “final” decision to endorse the destruction of the natural course of the Bruno stream in southern La Guajira. 

According to The Lawyers Collective – Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR) the decision is based on a study with technical and scientific insufficiencies, rigged, without rigor and with predominant information from the foreign company Carbones del Cerrejón. CAJAR also argues that there was no consultation to the Wayuu communities, it was not validated with the technical intervenors and didn’t have judicial supervision. It is a governmental decision that goes against the ruling of the Constitutional Court SU 698 de 2017.  

The Inter-institutional Technical Workgroup, of which the Cerrejón Coal Mine is also part of, concluded that the stream will remain diverted in the artificial channel. The decision means that the transnational company can continue expanding the exploitation of coal in La Guajira. 

According to the communication sent by email on 6 April 2022 by the Director of Sectorial and Urban Environmental Affairs of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, this “final version” of the study hopes to satisfy the Constitutional Court sentence. In terms of the “the cosmogonic, spiritual and cultural issue of the Wayuu ethnic group”, it states the recommendations were already included in the study with the contributions of the community of La Horqueta, which “would be equally applicable” to all the communities that covers the sentence.

The Constitutional Court had just agreed to reopen the case of the Arroyo Bruno. Once this had been announced the Inter-institutional Technical Roundtable put out a statement saying that Cerrejón had met with the technical requirements of the Constitutional Court Ruling.

The communication of this decision is alarming given the background of 2017 when the company accelerated the diversion works of the stream, while the judicial process was underway before the Constitutional Court. There is a very high risk that the mere completion of this study endorses the destruction of the natural course of the stream, without giving rise to validation by the judicial authority and the Wayuu communities of this decision.

ABColombia joins CAJAR in an urgent call on the Constitutional Court to issue a provisional measure that refrain the Cerrejón Coal mine company and the Colombian public authorities from destroying the natural course of the stream and grant the requests that have been made to open a compliance procedure and a verification hearing.

Watch here a cry for help from Luis Misael Socarras, leader of the Wayuu Peoples in La Guajira to the British and Irish parliamentary delegation that visited La Guajira this April and the international community.

Constitutional court SU 698 de 2017 

Representatives of Wayuu indigenous communities presented constitutional claims against government authorities and a mining company (Cerrejón) for threatening their fundamental rights to water, food, and health by diverting a 3-kilometer section of a stream (Arroyo Bruno) in order to expand coal-mining operations in an arid region of the Department of La Guajira in Colombia.   

The Court suspended activities related to the stream-diversion project until the several orders are complied with by a judicially created Inter-Institutional Workgroup composed of governmental and non-governmental actors to (1) ensure the participation in said Workgroup of civil society and academic actors that intervened in the judicial proceedings; (2) identify and assess the uncertainties related to the stream-diversion project in order to establish the measures that should be adopted; (3) within a month of notification of this sentence, develop a detailed schedule of the activities to be carried out, as well as the specific actor responsible for carrying out each activity, in order to identify and assess the uncertainties related to the stream-diversion project; (4) in case the Workgroup determines the stream-diversion project is environmentally viable, incorporate the conclusions resulting from its technical study of uncertainties into Cerrejón’s Integral Management Plan so that Cerrejón adopts measures to prevent, mitigate, control, compensate, and correct environmental and social impacts.