Firm which supplies coal to ESB 'horrified' by death threats against activist who condemned mine's operations

Jakeline Romero of the Fuerza de Mujeres Mayuu women's group in Ireland last month.

The controversial Colombian mining company that routes billions of euro worth of business through Ireland has said it is "horrified" by death threats against a human rights activist who was in this country last month speaking out against the mine.

Cerrejon, which operates one of the world's biggest open cast mines in northern Colombia, routes €2.3bn worth of business through its Dublin-based distributors and has supplied millions of tonnes of coal to the ESB, said it was calling on the authorities in Colombia to investigate the threats with urgency and take the necessary protective measures to safeguard those targetted.

"We are horrified by this situation and completely condemn such reprehensible acts," the company said in a statement today.

One of the activists threatened, Jakeline Romero of the Fuerza de Mujeres Mayuu women's group, was in Ireland last month to try to raise awareness of the impact the mine has had on farming communities in northern Colombia.

Human rights groups say the mine is responsible for the mass displacement of communities, destruction of the environment, depletion of the region's water supplies and illness in local populations due to dust and emissions.

The company denies the claims.

Opponents have often faced threats in this remote region where political corruption and paramilitary activity is rife. The current death threats are targetted at Ms Romero, fellow members of her group and a local trade union leader.

Ms Romero spoke at numerous events in Ireland last month at the invitation of the Latin America Solidarity Centre. She has also been recognised by the Irish charity, Front Line Defenders, for her work.

Cerrejon said in its statement: "Cerrejon wishes to express our support and acknowledgement of the work the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu organisation, as well as other organisations and leaders, do in the territory.

"Although we may have different views on coal mining, we are in complete agreement on everyone's right to freedom of speech and we fully understand that community leaders have a vital role to play in working to defend and improve the living conditions of their fellow citizens."

The ESB has used Cerrejon coal for years for the Moneypoint power station. The station has been offline for long periods in recent months, however, and there is a commitment to weaning it off coal within the next decade.

ESB has said previously it was aware of the complaints about the Cerrejon mine but that was a member of the Bettercoal quality assurance group which monitors mines and was satisfied with the standards in place there.

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