Burning coal is the single largest contributor to global climate breakdown. Human rights violations at the sites of fossil fuel extraction are often hidden.
The connections between County Clare, Ireland and La Guajira, Colombia may not be entirely obvious at first glance. Yet the regions are linked through a shared commodity: coal. Extracted in one region and burned in the other.
Coal extraction in La Guajira has a dirty secret, which I’ve witnessed first-hand: it is connected to a system of production entrenched in violence, bloodshed and environmental destruction.
Since 2001, almost 90% of coal burned at Moneypoint power station in County Clare in the west of Ireland has come from Colombia. Two-thirds of it was purchased from Cerrejón mine in Colombia’s northern department of La Guajira.
Spanning 69,000 hectares – around three quarters the size of county Dublin – Cerrejón is one of the world’s largest open-pit coalmines. It is also linked to well-documented environmental and human rights abuses for over two decades.
Ireland’s largest electricity-generation station, Moneypoint, is owned and run by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) utility company. Because the ESB is majority (95%) state-owned, the Irish government has a duty and responsibility to challenge and try to prevent adverse human rights impacts connected to the company’s fuel purchases.