BETTER TOGETHER

Colombia 2019 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

One of the top three employers in La Guajira, Cerrejón seeks to go beyond being an investor and aspires to play a different, more important role in the wellbeing of the region's inhabitants.

Guillermo Fonseca
BIOGRAPHY
Guillermo Fonseca studied economics at Universidad de Los Andes. His 20 years of experience has seen him take leadership positions for firms such Shell, BP, and Talisman at the national and international level. He has led teams in the US, Argentina, UK, and Colombia. He assumed the Presidency of Cerrejón in 2018, where he has been characterized as a leader with a holistic view of the company, understanding of the environment and international vision.

Cerrejón has been in La Guajira since 1985. What role has the mine played and continues to play in the economy and development of the region?
The arrival of Cerrejón in La Guajira opened the path for Colombia to become an important coal supplier in the global energy market. Since beginning of our activities, operating at the highest standards has been our priority, implementing best international practices and following recognized social and environmental standards to manage our impacts. Cerrejón's operations account for 44% of La Guajira's GDP, representing an opportunity to leverage potential growth sectors such as tourism and commerce. Cerrejón works to generate economic, social, environmental, and individual value at the regional and national levels. We employ more than 6,000 people directly, mainly local, and another 7,000 through contractor companies. Since 2002, we have paid USD7.5 billion in taxes and royalties. In 2018 alone, we paid USD739 million to the national government. As a company, we work to be a strategic ally for the progress of La Guajira, allocating time and resources in overcoming the region's main challenges. We are working on broad and sustainable water solutions and health and education programs, aspects that could materially and strategically influence the community's future and well-being. All of the above must be supported in a form of engagement between communities, the government, and the private sector, where each one has different roles and responsibilities than in the past, allowing the transition toward a disruptive and exponential model of development, that could significantly improve the conditions of La Guajira.

How does Cerrejón lead the way for Colombian mining to be environmentally sustainable?
Sustainability cannot merely be an accessory criterion to the operation but our reason of being. For this reason, we work constantly on the creation of environmental and social value to protect and improve the environment, contributing to its sustainability, for which we have adopted best practices and standards in environmental matters, which have allowed us to achieve significant results. In 2018, we allocated more than USD79.8 million on the prevention, mitigation, and compensation of impacts, prioritizing our actions toward the efficient use of water in operation, air quality management, and conservation of biodiversity. Additionally, we have a robust comprehensive environmental management plan (CEMP) that includes more than 1,600 environmental and social obligations, and for which the National Environmental Licensing Authority (ANLA) carries out the respective monitoring and control. Since we started our operation over 30 years ago, we have implemented advanced practices in managing environmental impacts and cutting-edge technology in our operation. We also have adopted standards to prevent, mitigate, and compensate our impacts.

How has the Cerrejón Foundation impacted the lives of local communities?
Our mission is to contribute to the transformations that La Guajira requires for its development. Traditionally, a company addresses social and environmental issues in order to produce; we are proposing the opposite. Cerrejón wants to lead changes that contribute to an equitable development, where society evidences the benefits of our activity in La Guajira and where agreements can be built. With our foundation, we develop social programs focused on the protection of watersheds, and water access solutions for communities, the strengthening of community and institutional capabilities, and the development of strategic projects for the department in sectors of potential development such as tourism in order to generate positive impacts for its population. We promote actions aimed at conservation and also water and soil management, which are directed at preserving and restoring regional micro-basins. This approach includes conservation projects for the watersheds of the Bruno, Pupurema, El Pasito, Majagüita, and Paladines creeks, providing social and economic benefits and promoting their sustainability. In 2018, we invested USD7.9 million in our social programs. Likewise, we have contributed to the education of 8,000 young people, mainly Guajirans, with the intention of strengthening their skills, so they may return to their territory to contribute with the necessary improvements.