Colombian Coal in Salem - By Avi Chomsky
Colombian Coal in Salem
Six years ago Armando Pérez Araújo and Remedios Fajardo visited Salem from northern Colombia, where Armando was a lawyer representing the displaced Afro-Colombian village of Tabaco, and Remedios an activist in the indigenous Wayuu organization Yanama. They told us how their region had been devastated by the giant Cerrejón coal mine, then owned by Exxon. Entire villages had been displaced and swallowed up by the mine while other communities had lost the centuries-old livelihoods based on hunting, fishing, and farming due to land loss and contamination of the air and the water by the mine. Cerrejón was then, and still is, the largest open-pit coal mine in the world—currently about 35 by 5 miles, and growing every day.
Salem’s power plant, like many others, shifted to Colombian coal because it was cheaper and cleaner than coal mined in the United States. The coal may be cheaper and cleaner when it is burned here, but it is dirtier and more expensive where it is mined. We must also count the cost in murdered workers and the devastated environment in the coal mining regions.