Where the rivers run dry, a coal mine thrives

In the Colombian desert, survival is defined by access to water.

The Wayuu of arid La Guajira (part of the Guajira Peninsula shared with Venezuela) know this and have been able to thrive in this parched land for centuries.

They are Colombia’s most populous Indigenous group, and 300,000 or more of them live on the peninsula.

But now their rivers have mostly dried up, what water is left is contaminated, and the groundwater levels have dropped too low for irrigation and wellwater for their crops.

They blame Latin America’s largest open-pit coal mine, El Cerrejon, owned by an amalgam of Colombian, Swiss, British, Australian and South African interests.

The mine owners claim that they practice “responsible mining,” and showcase the Wayuu communities they’ve supported.

Yet hundreds of other communities risk extinction, as corruption and influence from agribusiness disrupts guarantees of tribal access to reservoir water.

Source: Mongabay

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