Cañaverales Mine

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Cañaverales Mine is a proposed coal mine in La Guajira, Colombia.[1]


The map below shows the approximate location of the Cañaverales Mine in San Juan del Cesar, La Guajira, Colombia. The proposed Cañaverales mine is very close to the urban area of ​​the town of Cañaverales, making it the subject of ongoing controversy.[1]

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The Cañaverales mine is one of three coal projects under development by the Turkish-owned BCC (Best Coal Company) in Colombia's La Guajira department; BCC's other two proposed projects are the Papayal and San Juan mines.[2][3] The Cañaverales mine is estimated to have a useful life of 10 years, with the potential to produce 11.9 million tonnes of coal during that period.[2][3][4]

The Cañaverales mine was originally proposed by MPX Colombia, a subsidiary of MPX Energia SA, which in turn was a subsidiary of the diversified EBX Group.[4][5][6] In 2008 MPX paid US$18 million for a 30-year concession to explore 13,000 hectares in the municipalities of El Paso and Codazzi in Cesar department and 68,000 hectares in southern La Guajira department.[4][7] In 2009 MPX reported that initial explorations had identified 110 million tons of high-quality thermal coal reserves in the La Guajira concession.[8] MPX's business plan called for 3 open-cast mines, in Cañaverales, Papayal and San Benito as well as an underground mine in San Juan, and a 150km railroad line connecting the mines to a port facility in Dibulla capable of exporting up to 35 million tons of coal per year.[4][5] The plan stated that production would commence in 2012.[5] A third-party surveyor identified 144 million tons of reserves and resources with potential for open-cast mining in the proposed areas.[5] In 2011 MPX was granted an environmental license for the Cañaverales mine, opening the door to development of the project.[9][10]

In 2012, MPX's owner - the Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista - was forced to sell off many of his assets, including the Cañaverales mine, after suffering catastrophic losses in failed energy investments elsewhere.[11] In 2013, Batista announced his intention to sell CCX for approximately $450 million to the Turkish conglomerate Yıldırım Group.[12] By the time the sale was concluded in early 2014, the selling price had dropped to $125 million.[13] CCX listed the assets sold to Yildirim as follows: the "flagship San Juan underground mine, including 671.8 million tonnes of reserves as well as railway and port infrastructure, the Canaverales and Papayal open-pit mines, which hold 27.3 million and 15.6 million tonnes of coal, respectively." Shortly after the sale, Yildirim Holding announced its intention to move forward aggressively with plans to export coal from the newly acquired Colombian mines to its coal-fired power plants in Turkey, with all sea cargo arrangements to be handled by Yildirim.[14]

Following its acquisition of MPX's assets, new owner Yıldırım Group rebranded its Colombian operations under the name "Best Coal Company."[15] The Yildirim Group of Companies 2016 Annual Report stated intentions to make the Cañaverales mine operational by 2018.[15]

In September 2017, Colombia's national environmental authority ANLA revoked the original environmental permit for the Cañaverales project.[16] Best Coal Company subsequently petitioned for a reversal of ANLA's decision, but the appeal was rejected in June 2018.[17]

In its 2019 annual report, Yıldırım Group continued to identify the Cañaverales mine as its "most probable production project" in Colombia. The report stated that "EIA studies have concluded," "the informing of ethnic groups that are recognized by the Interior Ministry as the project stakeholders is finalized," and "the Cañaverales project will be ready for stripping in mid-2020 and then for coal production."[18]

As of 2021, the Cañaverales project remained stalled, with BCC still negotiating for licenses with ANLA, Colombia's environmental permitting authority, and needing to arrange required consultations with the local community.[3]

Documents submitted by Best Coal Company to Colombia's national mining agency in August 2021 and April 2022 confirmed that the Cañaverales project was still in the "feasibility" stage, with issuance of an operating license contingent on completion of a required community consultation with the local citizens' council “Los Negros de Cañaverales." Even so, the company continued to assert that construction would begin in 2022, with commercial operation to follow in 2024.[19][20]

Opposition & Conflicts with The Local Community

Video: Cañaverales residents discuss impacts of the proposed mine on ecosystems and the local community - Source: Noticias Uno Colombia

For more than a decade, local residents have expressed concern over the proximity of the proposed mine to the town of Cañaverales and its adjacent natural spring, and a host of detrimental impacts associated with the mine's development, including contamination of groundwater, disruption of the traditional agricultural economy and dramatic increases in land prices.[4]

Exploration work was carried out within a half-mile (800 meters) of the town[1], and community members say that the mine's main excavation zone would be only 700 meters from Cañaverales' town church.[3] According to a local news report, the mine site also overlapped with a cemetery and threatened a limited water supply.[21]

As of 2019, local opposition to the mine remained strong, with residents asserting their rights to water, food, health, work, and participation in decisions affecting the natural environment. Community members voiced particular concern that the 30-year Cañaverales project would permanently damage the Cañaverales natural spring, located within a protected forest reserve[22][23] only 2.1 km from the Cañaverales mine, which serves the community's everyday drinking water needs and provides irrigation for local farms.[3]

Opposition to the Cañaverales mine remained strong throughout 2021 and 2022, with human rights groups and local residents complaining that Best Coal Company has failed to comply with requirements for fair and open community consultation.[3][24][25][26][27][28][29] Opponents warn of the potential for the Cañaverales mine to expand into a megaproject that would encompass BCC's two other proposed mines in the area (Papayal and San Juan), along with the San Juan del Cesar-Dibulla railway connection and Caribbean port infrastructure originally proposed by MPX in 2010.[3]

Questions of transparency

An October 2022 report pointed out that Best Coal Company has provided virtually no recent information regarding the associated Papayal and San Juan mine projects, raising the question of whether BCC is intentionally obfuscating the broader long-term impacts of the Cañaverales mine.[4] Questions of transparency have also been raised by the fact that parent company Yildirim's 2021 annual report included no information about BCC's Colombian mine projects[30], in contrast to the 2020 annual report, which included a detailed two-page spread about the Cañaverales, Papayal and San Juan mines.[31]

Project Details

  • Owner: The Best Coal Company[15]
  • Parent company: Yıldırım Group[15]
  • Location: Outside of Cañaverales, San Juan del Cesar, La Guajira, Colombia
  • GPS coordinates: 10.758201, -72.835375 (approximate)[20]
  • Mine status: Proposed
  • Start year: TBD
  • Mineable reserves: 26.7 million tons[18][31]
  • Coal type:
  • Mine size:
  • Mine type: Surface[2][5]
  • Estimated annual production: 1.4 million tons[2][31][32]
  • Additional proposed production: The 2010 business plan mentions an expansion of the Northern and Eastern mining limits.[5]
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees:

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Environmental Justice Atlas Cañaverales, La Guajira, Colombia database, updated April 8, 2014, accessed Nov, 4 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Mining Projects" (PDF). Best Coal Company. March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Cañaverales, la comunidad que tiene frenado un proyecto minero de carbón en La Guajira". Consonante. October 15, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Giraldo Salazar, Juan Federico (July 12, 2022). "9. Disputas territoriales a partir de la proyección de minería de carbón en Cañaverales, La Guajira (p 337)". Revista Controversia (219).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 MPX ENERGIA S.A. MPX Releases MPX Colombia's Business Plan With 1.74 Billion in Potential Coal Resources and a 20 Mty Integrated Mining System, March 6, 2010
  6. MPX "MPX Portfolio", MPX website, accessed February 2011.
  7. "Brilla el mercado del carbón colombiano". Portafolio. January 9, 2009.
  8. "MPX intensificará exploración de carbón, certificará reservas e indicará potenciales depósitos de yacimientos". Portafolio. September 19, 2009.
  9. "RESOLUCIÓN NÚMERO 1074" (PDF). MINISTERIO DE AMBIENTE, VIVIENDA Y DESARROLLO TERRITORIAL. June 8, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "MPX recibió licencia para operar mina en La Guajira". Portafolio. November 8, 2011.
  11. "Colombian Coal Prepares for Canal Expansion", Coal Age, November 22, 2013.
  12. "Batista to Sell Colombia Coal Mines to Yildirim for $450 Million", Bloomberg, October 29, 2013.
  13. "Brazil's Eike Batista Slashes Price on Colombian Mining Projects", Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2014.
  14. "Yildirim all set to splash out $500m on bulkers", Trade Winds, March 7, 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Yildirim Group of Companies 2017 Goals and Expectations 2016 Annual Report, accessed Nov. 4, 2019
  16. "RESOLUCIÓN N° 01073" (PDF). ANLA. September 5, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. "RESOLUCIÓN N°00837" (PDF). ANLA. June 5, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. 18.0 18.1 "2019 Annual Report" (PDF). Yildirim Group of Companies. January 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. "Proyecto Cañaverales" (PDF). Agencia Nacional de Minería / Best Coal Company. August 24, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Proyecto Cañaverales" (PDF). Agencia Nacional de Mineria / Best Coal Company. April 26, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. NoticiasUnoColombia Explotación a la biodiversidad Youtube, Oct. 2, 2011
  22. "Pobladores de Cañaverales no quieren explotación de carbón en su territorio | La Guajira". La Guajira Hoy. March 25, 2019.
  23. "Cañaverales dice NO a otra explotación de carbón a cielo abierto en La Guajira". CENSAT - Agua Viva - Amigos de la Tierra (in español). Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  24. "Colombia: ONG denuncia falta de transparencia y acceso a la información por empresa de carbón Yildirim Group con impactos en comunidad étnica". Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. August 25. 2021. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  25. Mejiía Ospino, Eliana (8 julio 2022). "La Guajira Proyecto minero: Buscan frenar test de proporcionalidad en Cañaverales para proyecto minero". El Tiempo. Retrieved 29 September 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help); line feed character in |title= at position 28 (help)
  26. "Comunicado: Denunciamos irregularidades en consulta previa de proyecto de carbonífero en zona del manantial de Cañaverales". CINEP. November 19, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. "Alcaldía de San Juan del Cesar, concejales y empresa BCC analizan situación actual del proyecto minero de Cañaverales - Diario del Norte". Diario del Norte. 2022-06-29.
  28. "Sin consentimiento de comunidad, gobierno da vía libre a proyecto de megaminería". La Guajira Hoy. 2022-06-22.
  29. "¿Una nueva mina de carbón en La Guajira en tiempos de descarbonización?". CINEP. September 5, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. "2021 Annual Report" (PDF). Yildirim Group of Companies. 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "Annual Report 2020 (pp 52-53)" (PDF). Yildirim Group of Companies. January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. Enrique Saez Translation: The sale of CCX assets in Colombia does not prosper, Original: No prospera la venta de activos de CCX en Colombia minería pan-americana, Oct 6, 2014

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