In December 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that Colombia take the measures necessary to allow indigenous Wayúu children to access safe drinking water. The request followed a petition issued by the Association of Traditional Indigenous Authorities of the Wayúu Shipia Wayúu (ATIAWSW) in efforts to regain access to the Rancheria River that had previously been dammed by the Government. Most of the water from the dam is allocated to supply the Cerrejón open-cast coal mine, severely affecting the water supply of the Wayúu community. Cerrejón mine, which was previously co-owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore, has also been linked to forced displacement of the Wayúu community and other indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, as well as to the widespread and extreme pollution of water and air in the vicinity of the mine.
In June 2020, a British lawyer submitted an appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment to intervene on behalf of the Wayúu people due to the alleged damages of the coal mine operations to their health. In response, the mine operators stated that they rejected the presentation of biased and inaccurate information regarding the mine’s environmental and social performance. Additionally, they noted that they had embedded human rights due diligence processes to manage impacts of the operation and had developed programmes to improve the living conditions of the ethnic communities close to the mine. Despite this, in September 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur David Boyd called on Colombia to suspend operations at Cerrejón until it can be shown to be safe to the Wayúu community.
On 1 March 2021, a deal was reached between the mine operators and the Wayuu indigenous community of Provincial Reservation to comply with requirements as issued by the country’s Constitutional Court. The order requires the operators to comply with requirements designed to protect the health and environment of the Provincial community. The implementation of the agreement includes building a new health centre, establishing an environmental rehabilitation programme in different areas of the Reservation and the creation of a nursery expected to produce 100,000 plants per year and generate income for the community.