Workers from a private security firm have blocked the facilities at a coal mine in northeastern Colombia for five consecutive days over a contract dispute, a statement from the mining company read on Wednesday.
The workers, who are mainly from the indigenous Wayuu group, are protesting because of the termination of the contract between their security firm, Sepecol, and Colombia’s largest coal mining company, Cerrejon.
The contract was changed after a bidding round conducted by the mining company, the statement from Cerrejon read.
Twenty-one miles of railroad near the Venezuelan border in northeast Colombia that links the mine to the coast have been blocked since June 20.
The group of employees from Sepecol started the protests on June 18, and two days later they began the blockade. According to the statement, the blockade is obstructing the the coal transportation putting export obligations at risk.
Municipal authorities and the regional Ombudsman are working to promote a peaceful dialogue, and the statement from the mining company underlined that all the Wayuu employees from Sepecol working at the Cerrejon mine and living along the railway line, would be hired by the new security companies.
According to the press release by Cerrejon, the mining company “insists on total respect for the demonstrations and peaceful protests,” however, Cerrejon also insisted that the protest was “not justified” since 80% of current employees have continued with their contracts.
Located in the northeast state of La Guajira, the Cerrejon coal mine, one of the largest in Colombia, currently employs 10,000 people, of which over 99% are Colombian nationals. The mine, located in the basin of the Rancheria River, extends over 170,000 acres.
- Continúan las protestas y el bloqueo en las instalaciones de Cerrejón (Cerrejon Press Release)