Glencore and Anglo American initiated arbitration claims against Colombia in a secretive tribunal outside of the national legal system in 2021 to avoid implementation of a Colombian Constitutional Court decision from 2017. This decision favours Wayúu Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities and the protection of the Bruno River. It suspended expansion of the Cerrejón coal mine, Latin America’s largest open-pit thermal coal mine, pending the outcome of a technical review of its social and environmental impacts.
The Cerrejón open-pit thermal coal mine, Latin America’s largest, has operated in La Guajira, in the north of Colombia for almost four decades. The company Carbones del Cerrejón is now owned by the Swiss transnational Glencore. However, during the last two decades and until early 2022, Glencore, Anglo American and BHP had equal shareholdings in the company.
For years, local communities in La Guajira and Colombian civil society organizations have documented human rights violations and environmental human rights violations and environmental impacts from the mine. These include the dispossession and displacement of up to 35 Wayúu Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities from their ancestral territories, with irreparable cultural consequences. Coal extraction has also contaminated air, water and soil, including diverting, interfering with, or drying up about 44 local streams, including the Bruno, a major tributary of the Ranchería River and the most important water source in this dry region.
Glencore and Anglo American brought their suits against Colombia using a system formally known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which is written into some 2,800 trade and investment treaties. The companies used the bilateral investment protection treaties with Switzerland and the United Kingdom respectively. ISDS gives foreign investors unilateral recourse when they believe that measures taken by a state negatively affect their interests.
Access to the Summary of the Amicus at this link: SUMMARY, Amicus Colombia (Sep, 2022)
Access the complete Amicus (only in Spanish) at this link: AMICUS CURIAE _ Colombia, Demanda ISDS, Arroyo Bruno (Agosto, 2022)