Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment

Electricity Generation

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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945. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount of coal imported from a mine (details supplied) in 2019 for use in the Moneypoint power station; if his attention has been drawn to the reputation of the mine for the destruction of the environment, forcible displacement of indigenous people and Afro-Colombians living in the area and workers' rights abuses including harassment and threats of community and human rights defenders from state forces; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the mine has continued uninterrupted operation during the Covid-19 crisis, placing workers and their families at great risk; his plans to seek coal elsewhere while Moneypoint remains open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6787/20]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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The procurement of fuels for ESB power stations is an operational matter for ESB and not one in which I, as Minister, have a statutory function. However, I do wish to address the concerns raised.

I can confirm that ESB has not received coal from the Cerrejón mine since 2018.

The government in the Climate Action Plan has committed to the complete phase out of coal and peat in the generation of electricity.

Since 2015, the amount of coal burned to generate electricity has reduced by 85% and this has contributed to a 13% reduction in green house gases in Ireland since 2005.

I am fully aware of the concerns expressed in relation to the Cerrejón mine. ESB joined Bettercoal, an organisation established by coal buyers to work towards a globally responsible coal supply, in 2014 as part of their commitment to use responsibly sourced coal. I understand that Bettercoal, following an assessment of the Cerrejón mine which indicated that the mine’s operating principles are essentially in line with the Bettercoal best practice code, introduced a Continuous Improvement Plan for the mine and assesses progress against this on an ongoing basis.

The Tánaiste has confirmed that our Embassy in Colombia visited the La Guajira region in September 2019, meeting with stakeholders, including local communities, Cerrejón management, local government, and civic leaders.

The Embassy reported that there are a range of complex issues and challenges in the region and that there is a lack of trust between the local authorities, communities, and the mine. They concluded that efforts should be made to improve communication between the local communities and the mine and recommended that these communities should be included in plans for the closure of the mine by 2033, to ensure the delivery of a just transition for the region. The Embassy engaged with national Government, NGO partners, and Cerrejón management to share feedback and continue to monitor the situation.

The Embassy understands that measures have been put in place by Cerrejón management to ensure a safe work environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all bar essential operations ceased. According to the mine company a number of protocols regarding the protection of workers have also been introduced.

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