Acción de tutela instaurada por Orlando José Morales Ramos, contra la sociedad Drummond Ltda, Decision T-154 -2013
Constitutional Court of Colombia, Sixth Chamber of Appeals
File reference: T-2550727
21 March 2013
Constitution of Colombia of 1991 (articles 8, 15,44, 58, 86, 88, 174, 282 and 333)
National Code of Renewable Natural Resources and Environmental Protection
Convention of Biological Diversity
Articles 1 and 14 of the Act 99 of 1993
Act 472 of 1998
Act 9 of 1979
Act 165 of 1994
Decree Law 2591 of 1991
Decree Law 2811 of 1974
Decree 0948 of 5 June 1995
Decree 1594 of 2005
Decree 02 of 1982
Decree 979 of 2006
The Colombian Constitutional Court reviewed the Superior Court of Valledupar’s ruling to reject a protection action against the mining operations of Drummond Ltd. A protection action (“accion de tutela”) is a legal action established by Article 86 of the Colombian Constitution and can be taken by individuals to demand protection of their constitutional rights. The protection action concerned the violation of the right to life, to a healthy environment, to privacy and to health of Mr. Orlando José Morales Ramos, his wife and his 11 children, most of them minors, near the Pribbenow mine located in La Loma, municipality of El Paso, Colombia.
The complainant’s claim focused on the mining operation which was being carried out 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The mining produced excessive noise and polluted the water and the air with dirt and coal particles, all of which damaged the health of his family, particularly his 11 children who suffered from sore eyes, coughs and discomfort in their ears. The complainant requested that the mine stop operating until it could be confirmed that Drummond was acting in compliance with environmental and health rules.
Issue and resolution:
Right to life, right to health, right to privacy and right to a healthy environment. The Court found that these rights had been breached by Drummond and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MESD) and ordered the MESD to take the necessary measures to prevent and reduce the harmful effects to health and the environment and to decrease the coal emissions and avoid environmental contamination caused by coal extraction. The Court ordered Drummond to take measures to eliminate and prevent the damage caused by the mining operation.
The Court noted that the airborne particles could have a serious impact on people’s, particularly children’s, health as they may cause respiratory and pulmonary diseases. The Court found no basis to exclude the causal relationship between the existence of coal particles in the air and the children’s diseases, adding that a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating that the damage was clearly and wholly attributable to Drummond’s activities should not be used as a reason to preclude the adoption of effective measures to prevent the health risks. The court found that neither Drummond nor the MESD had carried out the necessary measures to prevent the health and environmental risks of the mining operation, especially in the area in which the complainant’s 11 children lived.
The Colombian Constitutional Court ruling has not been complied with and Mr. Orlando José Morales Ramos and his family remain affected by the operation of the mine. The lack of compliance by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in particular has heightened the controversy around this issue in Colombia.
In 2014, the Comptroller General of the Nation (“Contraloría General de la Nación”), a Colombian independent government institution, stated that Drummond, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the National Licensing Authority (“Autoridad Nacional de Licencias”) had not complied with the provisions of the judgment. The source is available at http://www.eluniversal.com.co/regional/cesar/contralora-promueve-incidente-de-desacato-contra-minambiente-anla-y-la-drummond.
This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.