EL CERREJÓN — The largest open pit coal mine in the world lies in Colombia. Health damage caused both to its workers and the communities – silicosis disease among them – is peremptory and alarming.
Mineral coal is one of the main sources of energy in the world and the main cause of global warming due to the gases emitted during its combustion. The balance is not easy between Colombia, the largest coal producer in Latin America, and Germany, the largest coal consumer in the EU.
In both Germany and Colombia, coal mining plays a significant economic role as it is an important source of wealth, but it is also the cause of the destruction of communities and natural spaces and the displacement and persecution of thousands of people.
For several decades, the Colombian State, informally and manipulating the law, has ceded to international industrial conglomerates, Swiss giant Glencore among them, the territories which belong to indigenous communities. Essentially, it offers the possibility of exploiting natural resources with the minimum demands for environmental care and/or protection of human health. Our investigation ( text + pictures) expores how the coal industry affects respective countries in a very unequal way.
With the support of Journalism Fund Europe and Leica Mexico, with the Leica Q2
Pictures : Anita Pouchard Serra
Text : Rocío Periago y G Jaramillo Rojas
Tabaco, a small Afro-American and peasant village in southern La Guajira, was violently evicted by El Cerrejon mining company in August 2011.
Paul Breuer speaks all the time in the past tense: it seems that coal is something that ceased to exist decades ago when the mines closed down. However, a 30-minute drive away, in the mines of Garzweiler, Hambach and Inden, it is something that still determines the lives of many people.
Eckhardt Heukamp has become a familiar face in the resistance to the advance of the RWE power company in the Rheinisches Braunkohlerevier region in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Despite being a project planned to the millimeter, the expansion of the mines in Germany to extract lignite from the subsoil has put enormous pressure on thousands of people.
"I don't know how to swim. When I was three or four years old, my grandmother dreamed that I drowned. The Wayuu believe a lot in dreams and that's why they forbade me to go near the river. My son, on the other hand, seems more from the water than from the land. I don't have a problem with that, but he gets hives and rashes all the time. They are horrible allergies caused by his constant bathing in the river," says Mayra, her voice barely audible, thanks to the invariable industrial hum.