Sentencia T-154/13 (Orlando José Morales Ramos contra la Sociedad Drummond Ltda.), Sala Sexta de Revisión de la Corte Constitucional de Colombia, 21 de marzo de 2013:
The Constitutional Court of Colombia resolved an acción de tutela brought by Orlando José Morales Ramos against a mining company (Sociedad Drummond Ltda.) for violating his rights and the rights of his children to life, health, privacy, and a healthy environment by virtue of the environmental impacts caused by the company’s coal mining activities at the Pribbenow mine in the Department of Cesar.
The Court determined that the harmful effects of the noise and particulate matter caused by the coal mining activities of Drummond interfered with the privacy and health of the plaintiff and his family. Consideración 7.4. Despite the impossibility of performing a medical exam to verify the causation of the plaintiff’s respiratory problems, the Court found no evidence to disregard the causal relation with the constant presence of particulate matter in the air around the plaintiff’s home caused by Drummond’s mining activities. Consideración 7.5. The Court explained that “operation licenses and the supposed compliance with requirements by the defendant company do not undermine the objective verification of the pollution that continues to be produced in the environment” and the hypothetical compliance with regulatory provisions “is not sufficient constitutional support for the continuation, in circumstances that visibly do not satisfy the inalienable obligation ‘of the State and of persons’ to protect the natural wealth of the Nation . . . from an economic exploitation, that as important and profitable as it may be does not justify the environmental deterioration”. Consideración 7.6. More succinctly, the Court concluded: “In the confrontation of rights and liberties, without a doubt the recognition of the human person and her existence in dignified and healthy conditions prevail”. Id.
Reversing the lower court’s finding of insufficient evidence that Drummond is violating or endangering a fundamental constitutional right, the Constitutional Court explained that any such insufficiency cannot be used as an excuse to postpone the adoption of measures to guard against environmental degradation and the generation of health risks in light of the precautionary principle. Consideración 7.7. The Court ordered the environmental authority to thoroughly analyze and appropriately comply with World Health Organization recommendations. Consideración 7.8. The Court ordered Drummond to install the best available technologies to reduce noise and air pollution, including the plantation of a greenbelt around all coal extraction, storage, and transportation sites. Consideración 7.9.