According to the United Nations, large-scale coal mining in northern Colombia has contributed to increased poverty, the Spanish EFE news agency reported Friday.
The areas most highly affected are the townships of El Hatillo and Plan Bonito in the municipality of El Paso, and Boqueron in La Jagua de Ibirico, all located in the state of Cesar, according to the cited UN report.
“Since the nineties, the presence of large-scale coal mining in the vicinity of these townships led to acute changes in the habits of the population,” the UN report was quoted as saying.
The three coal giants operating in this region are Drummond, CNR Americans and Prodeco, which is owned by Glencore Xstrata.
Mining in the region has taken severe tolls on “access to water, health, [and the] development of agricultural activity” and brought about drastic “change in their [the locals’] environment,” stated the UN report.
Moreover, the UN report said, “a high rate of prostitution also occurs among young people, including high school students, and drug addiction, mainly among men.”
At the beginning of his term, President Juan Manuel Santos made mining one of the “motors” of his “Prosperity for All” economic policy.
Cesar generates 50.9% of all domestic coal in Colombia. According to the National Mining Agency, its production in 2011 was 43,687.56 kilotons.
The UN’s report stems from an investigative mission sent to Cesar during a visit to the state in March 2013.