After the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, Germany reorganized its energy supply. In many cases, this collides with the planned energy transition. This also applies to the use of coal. Imports from Colombia in particular are increasing.

There, left-wing President Gustavo Petro originally had completely different plans. “The new government is aiming for a gradual exit from fossil energy sources and a transition to renewable energy,” describes Prof. Dr. Stefan Peters, Director of the German-Colombian Peace Institute CAPAZ, on the new government’s plans in a recently published assessment. However, the reality is currently different.

According to the data available from the German Federal Statistical Office, German hard coal imports almost tripled to around 4.8 million tons in the period from January to September 2022 compared to the same period last year as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine. at the request of DW.

While the phase-out of coal is being propagated in Germany, coal imports from other countries are increasing significantly. And one of those countries is Colombia.

In the entire previous year (January to December), German hard coal imports from Colombia (including hard coal coke) still amounted to around 2.3 million tons.

When asked by DW, the energy company EnBW said: “In 2021, EnBW purchased 0.21 million tons of coal from Colombia. In the period from January to June 2022, it was 0.47 million tons.” As with other companies, there are signs of a multiplication of coal imports in a year-on-year comparison.

Against this background, representatives of German energy companies are traveling to Cartagena at the weekend to discuss with members of the Colombian government a “re-industrialization of Colombia based on renewable energies”.

Much of the coal comes from one of Latin America’s largest coal mines, El Cerrejón. This is controversial among environmentalists and human rights activists. Recently, there have been roadblocks caused by laid-off employees demanding reinstatement.

“We come from the region and deserve to be employed in this company,” Ramón Redondo, spokesman for the protesters, told the newspaper “El Tiempo”. The protests temporarily prevented the coal from being shipped from the mine to the port of Puerto Bolivar in Alta Guajira.

There are also reports of accidents at work, recently an intern was killed in a workshop. At the end of November, relatives of Carlos Nicanor Escudero Robles blocked the streets demanding the clarification of the circumstances of another death of a sub-contractor employee.

“We demand justice,” said one of the protesters. An investigation must clarify the background of the accident.

Residents of the region report that the majority of the population is against the operation of the mine. Decisions for the operation were made years ago without prior consultation with the population.

The mine is located in the northern province of La Guajira in Wayuu Indigenous Territory. In the past they had already pointed out displacement and threats as well as the water scarcity of their rivers.

Today’s Vice President Francia Marquez questioned mining in general during the election campaign: “The largest coal mine in Colombia is in La Guajira, and in this department children are dying of hunger. Is this development?” Marquez asked on Twitter.

So far, nothing has changed in this starting position. Just over the weekend, local media reported that two more indigenous children in the community of Uribia in La Guajira had starved to death. The mine operator is meanwhile trying to counteract this in the region with donations in kind – such as recently with medical equipment to a hospital.

There is also obviously a rethinking in oil production in Bogota. As the business magazine “Portafolio” reports, the Colombian government is considering reactivating 35 idle oil contracts.

Meanwhile, the Colombian President is calling for a fundamental reform of the mining law in order to implement new environmental and social standards.

On Wednesday it became known that the government no longer wants to allow open pit mining contracts. During a visit to Colombia a few days ago, the ex-Greenpeace boss and current State Secretary at the Berlin Foreign Office – where she is “Special Representative for “international climate policy” – gave great praise: “Colombia is definitely positioning itself as a pioneer in the environmental sector”. , she told the daily El Tiempo.

Author: Tobias Kaufer

The original for this article “Berlin’s hunger for Colombian coal” comes from Deutsche Welle.