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Wayúu Indigenous community and others v. Ministry of Environment and others

Jurisdiction: Council of State, Administrative Tribunals

Side A: Wayúu Indigenous community and others (Individual)

Side B: Ministry of Environment and others (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the environmental license of Cerrejón Zona Norte Coal Mining Project violates environmental provisions and human rights to FPIC, health and a healthy environment due to its effects on climate change and GHG emissions.

The Wayúu Indigenous community of Northern Colombia and other individuals filed a lawsuit seeking the annulment of the environmental license that authorized the Cerrejón Zona Norte Coal Mining Project in La Guajira region. Plaintiffs claim that the environmental licensing process failed to comply with environmental provisions and principles, violating the rights of the Wayúu community and the general population to a healthy environment, human health, and free, prior and informed consent. Among petitioners’ requests is a study of all water bodies that are being affected by the mine operations including the costs in terms of ecosystem preservation and the health of the vulnerable communities. 

Particularly, plaintiffs argue that every natural resource exploitation project should consider the specificities and realities of climate change. Petitioners also claim that environmental licensing processes must analyze Colombia’s obligations to address climate change and Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs before issuing a permit. Among the plaintiffs’ arguments is that the Colombian government failed to consider the impact of coal mining on climate change when studying the environmental permit’s request. Plaintiffs invoked the correlation between coal mining and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to ask for the mine’s closure as a way to ensure the transition towards a cleaner energy and Colombia’s compliance with its international commitments.

Finally, plaintiffs also asked for a precautionary measure that prevents the environmental authorities from issuing modification permits in this particular project. Petitioners argue that any expansion of the existing mining project could worsen the environmental harms and climate change effects.

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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