In 2013, our Prodeco coal operation in Colombia completed a huge undertaking: constructing a new port.
This was necessary to comply with new government requirements for a direct loading system to minimise dust. Construction complied with international standards; we supported this with a detailed action plan for the social and environmental impact of the project. Our new port was officially inaugurated on 29 May 2013.
One of the challenges of a direct loading port is that significantly fewer employees are required than for a traditional port facility. We were able to employ 68 employees from the old port at the new facility, and provided compensation, at greater levels than required by local labour legislation, to all those we could not. We also launched a number of efforts to help former employees find new employment or an alternative income source.
We primarily sought to relocate the affected employees into our other operations. We were able to redeploy 56 employees immediately and, after providing training in diesel motor repair and maintenance, coal truck operation, and marine operations, employ a further 129 employees elsewhere.
Employees who we could not redeploy were enrolled in a programme, led by a local university, that provided counselling and tools to help find future employment, such as assistance with CV preparation. The university also helped these individuals identify alternative income sources, including guidance on the generation of ideas, support with marketing strategies, and technical and legal support for independent start-ups.
As a result, three cooperatives, comprising 35 former employees and their families, have been established. They work on the maintenance of green zones and roads and wholesale marketing of fresh produce and dairy products. We are working with these cooperatives to help them meet the quality requirements needed to become official Prodeco vendors.