Supporting Colombia’s Wayúu in their Fight Against a Polluting Coal Mine

ELAW Bulletin

Rosa María Mateus Parra, lawyer at Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), recently co-hosted a public webinar to share the contents of several amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs submitted by international groups, including ELAW, in support of the efforts of the Wayúu Indigenous people of La Guajira, Colombia. CAJAR is helping the Wayúu bring legal actions to protect themselves from the impacts of Latin America’s largest open-pit coal mine, Cerrejón.

ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Meche Lu and ELAW attorney Pedro León presented ELAW’s amicus curiae brief addressing air quality issues. They were joined by attorneys at AB Colombia; the Environmental and Human Rights Law Clinic, Kings College, U.K., and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, U.S., who also shared their expert opinions.

“The environmental and health impacts of the Cerrejón mine are well documented and have been the subject of court rulings in recent years,” says Dr. Meche Lu. Together with the late ELAW attorney Killian Doherty, Dr. Lu submitted an amicus curiae brief in August 2020 supporting the Wayúu community's request to halt pollution at the coal mine and protect rights to health and a healthy environment, especially of children most affected by particulate matter (microscopic particles that can be hazardous when inhaled.)

The community reports that the mining company has stated that dust from the Sahara Desert is the main source of the air pollution affecting local communities. However, recent scientific studies show that the open pit mine and nearby waste areas are the key source of particulate matter.
ELAW will continue to support actions to stop the abuses of the Cerrejón mine, and uphold nearby communities' rights to health and a healthy environment.


Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide