March 16, 2018 / 11:58 PM / 2 years ago

Colombia's Cerro Matoso mine must pay damages to local communities, court rules

BOGOTA, March 16 (Reuters) - Colombia’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine, owned by Australian miner South32, must pay damages to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities affected by its operations in Cordoba province, Colombia’s constitutional court said on Friday.

The court ruled in a lawsuit brought by community leaders that there were waste emissions that seriously affected neighboring communities and that community members had been diagnosed with lung and heart problems, including lung cancer. It also said that some residents had high levels of nickel in their blood and urine.

The company’s licensing for the mine does not reflect constitutional standards for environmental protection and Cerro Matoso must re-apply, the court added in a summary of its ruling.

Cerro Matoso produced 40,600 tonnes of ferronickel in 2017.

The mine must “provide comprehensive and permanent attention to those people who suffer illnesses related to the exploitation of nickel and ferronickel,” the court said, paying damages to the affected communities collectively through a special fund.

South32 said in an emailed statement that it had not yet been informed of the court’s decision but that it would evaluate the ruling once it had been.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta

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