Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Questions (143)

Seán Crowe


143. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the Cerrejón mine in the north east of Colombia (details supplied). [35076/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the specific mine to which the Deputy refers, and of the difficult situation which currently obtains for environmental and indigenous rights defenders in Colombia. Environmental degradation, and the rights of indigenous communities to be consulted in regard to projects which affect them, such as the Cerrejón mine, are recurring challenges.

I understand that there have been complaints from some non-governmental organisations regarding private sector activities in the Cerrejón mine and I am aware of the negative publicity that has surrounded the mine for some time now.

I remain concerned at reports of mining activities having a negative impact on local populations or on the environment, as well as of reported abuse of workers.

Ireland does not yet have an embassy in Colombia but the EU Delegation in Bogotá has been very active on Member States’ behalf in this area. The EU Delegation has been monitoring the situation closely and the EU Head of Delegation has visited the Cerrejón Mine in order to hear stakeholders' views on the allegations and to assess the situation on the ground. Several follow-up meetings have taken place and the EU has been maintaining contact with representatives of sectoral trade unions and other civil society and environmental organisations.

In addition to the continuous monitoring of Colombia's mining sector, the EU has been carrying out a number of activities in the framework of the implementation of the Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia. The EU has been actively promoting a dialogue between Colombia's civil society organizations, including in the environmental and labour sectors, and the Colombian Government, and several meetings were organised in which the EU Delegation to Colombia facilitated contacts between these parties. As I have explained previously in response to Parliamentary Questions on the matter, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an ongoing commitment to support peace and human rights in Colombia as well as its transition to a post-conflict society. My Department continues to engage with the Colombian authorities at Government level and with human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Colombia, including those working in communities most impacted by conflict.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides funding directly to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia to support its work in promoting and protecting human rights, including in some of Colombia’s most isolated and challenging regions, as well as to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, which provides protection measures to community leaders and activists operating in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

Officials from the Embassy of Ireland in Mexico, which is accredited to Colombia, frequently visit the country and maintain regular contact with partners there, including to receive updates on the issues affecting local communities.

We will continue to monitor developments in the country and the particular issue raised by the Deputy as closely as possible. This will be facilitated by the planned opening next year of an Embassy in Columbia.

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 141.