The People Behind the Coal is a long-term program initiated by Witness for Peace to provide support for mine workers and communities affected by Cerrejon Grande, the world’s largest coal mine. The SJF has sponsored 5 PSAC representatives over the years to participate in this program.
In 2013, the SJF sponsored Brother Frank Walsh, a professional nurse at the Stanton Hospital and member of the UNW, to participate in a health professional delegation to the Coal Mining region of Colombia organized by Witness for Peace. The health professionals visited Afro-Colombian and Wayuu Indigenous communities affected by coal mining, as well as with the mine workers at Drummond and Cerrejon Grande to assess their living and working conditions.
In March 2013, the union at Cerrejon Grande, jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Xstrata-Glencore and AngloAmerican held the first strike in 22 years largely due to the terrible health and safety concerns that have affected over 700 workers who are chronically ill due to the abysmal working conditions at the mine. The strike also demanded equality and respect for the thousands of miners who are contracted out without adequate benefits and for the communities that are being severely impacted by the voracious expansion of the coal industry.