Cerrejon coal mine

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Cerrejón coal mine or minera del Cerrejón is a surface mine, owned by the Cerrejón Coal Company, a subsidiary of Glencore[1][2], near the village of Albania in the La Guajira department of Colombia.

Cerrejón is the largest coal mine in Latin America and the tenth biggest in the world.[3]

In 2011, the mine underwent an expansion, called the Cerrejon P-40 Expansion.


The satellite photo below shows the location of the Cerrejón coal mine, in the southeast of the department of La Guajira, near the Colombian-Venezuela border. The coal mine is situated in the northeastern part of the Cesar-Ranchería Basin, the basin of the Ranchería River, between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the west and the Serranía del Perijá to the southeast.

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The Cerrejón mine comprises four zones: the North Zone, the Central Zone, the Patilla area and the South Zone.[4]

BHP Billiton boasted on its website in 2011 that "Cerrejón's open-cut mines now represent one of the biggest earthmoving operations worldwide. Approximately one million tonnes of material are moved every day, 365 days per year. To achieve this, the operation runs one of the biggest fleets of shovels and trucks in the world. The company employs nearly 4,000 people, with approximately the same number engaged as contractors."[4]


As of August 2010, Xstrata Coal stated on its website that "in December 1976, an Association Contract was signed between Carbocol S.A., a state owned coal company, and Intercor, an ExxonMobil affiliate, for the development of Cerrejón North Zone. In January 1999, an agreement with the Government of Colombia extended this phase an additional 25 years more, until 2034.[5] In November 2000, the Colombian Government sold Carbocol S.A.’s (50%) participation in Cerrejón North Zone Association Contract, to a consortium made up of subsidiary companies of BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc and Glencore International AG. In February of 2002, the consortium acquired the remaining 50% from Intercor and merged Intercor with Carbones del Cerrejón S.A to create Carbones del Cerrejón LLC, Cerrejón."[5]

In June 2021, Glencore announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire BHP and Anglo American's 33.3% stakes in the Cerrejón mine.[1] In January 2022, Glencore completed the acquisition, assuming 100% control of the mine.[2]


Production at the Cerrejón mine grew steadily throughout the early 2000s, reaching its peak between 2012 and 2014; BHP Billiton stated in its 2014 Annual Report that total production in the 2013/2014 financial year (July 2013-June 2014) was 36.9 million tonnes.[6]

In its 2020 annual report, BHP Billiton reported that production declined by 33% in 2019-2020 due to worker strikes and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.[7] BHP Billiton's 2021 report indicated that production declined a further 30% in 2020-2021, in part due to a 91-day strike.[8] However, by the end of 2021, the Cerrejón Coal Company reported that annual production had recovered, falling only about 10% shy of 2019 levels.[9][10]

Table 1: Annual Production and Exports (January to December) - Cerrejón Mine

Mtpa = million tonnes per annum
Year Total Production (Mtpa) Total Exports (Mtpa)
2021 23.4[9][10] 23.36[11]
2020 12.4[12] 13.6[12]
2019 25.8[13] 26.3[13]
2018 30.7[14] 30.5[14]
2017 31.9[15] 31.7[15]
2016 31.6[16] 32.4[17]
2015 33.2[18] 33.4[18]
2014 33.7[19] 34.2[19]
2013 32.6[16] 33.5[20]
2012 34.6[21] 32.8[21]
2011 32.3[22] 32.03[22]
2010 30.2[23] 31.4[23]
2009 30.6[24] 30.3[24]
2008 31.2[25] 31.4[25]
2007 29.6[26] 29.8[26]
2006 28.4[27] 27.5[27]
2005 26[28] 25.5[28]

Table 2: BHP Billiton Share of Production (July to June Fiscal Year)

Mtpa = million tonnes per annum
Fiscal Year Total Production (Mtpa) BHP Billiton Share of Production (Mtpa)
Jul 2020-Jun 2021 14.892 4.964[8]
Jul 2019-Jun 2020 21.345 7.115[7]
Jul 2018-Jun 2019 27.690 9.230[29]
Jul 2017-Jun 2018 31.848 10.616[30]
Jul 2016-Jun 2017 32.877 10.959[31]
Jul 2015-Jun 2016 30.282 10.094[32]
Jul 2014-Jun 2015 33.873 11.291[32]
Jul 2013-Jun 2014 36.996 12.332[32]
Jul 2012-Jun 2013 30.051 10.017[33]
Jul 2011-Jun 2012 34.989 11.663[33]
Jul 2010-Jun 2011 29.667 9.889[34]
Jul 2009-Jun 2010 30.465 10.155[34]


Coal from Cerrejón was originally marketed by CMC Coal Marketing Company, a company owned equally by BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc and Xstrata plc, headquartered in Dublin (Ireland) with a subsidiary office in Atlanta (USA).[35][36]

In 2009, Cerrejón Coal Company stated that 56% of its production was exported to Europe, 17% to North America, 12% to Central and South America and 15% to "other destinations".[37] As of February 2011 BHP Billiton's website confirmed that coal from Cerrejón was "exported largely to Europe, but also to the USA and South America."[4] In its 2020 annual report, the Cerrejón Coal Company stated that 43% of the mine's exports were shipped to the Mediterranean region, 26% to the Americas, 15% to Asia, and 15% to other countries in non-Mediterranean Europe.[12]

As of March 2015, the CMC Coal Marketing Company website indicated that the Cerrejón mine had exported over 500 million tonnes since 1985[35], while the Cerrejón Coal Company's 2016 annual report stated that coal exports from Cerrejón between 1985 and 2016 exceeded 650 million tonnes.[17]

Reserves and reserve life

As of August 2010, Xstrata Coal stated that the mine employed 8,400 people and had a "reserve base in excess of 900 million tonnes."[5]

As of August 2011, according to the mine's owners, Cerrejón had a resource base of about 5 billion tons, of which 2.1 billion tons had already been measured and indicated to be of export quality, making Cerrejón one of the largest coal deposits in the world.[38]

As the global price of thermal coal has plummeted since 2011, the reserve life of the mine - even before the P40 expansion was fully commissioned - has been substantially truncated. In its 2011 annual report BHP Billiton stated that the mine had a reserve life of 23 years.[34] In each of its three subsequent annual reports the company dropped the reserve life by two years.[33][39][40] As of its 2014 annual report, BHP Billiton stated that the reserve life of the mine was 17 years.[40] The company stated that the reason for the change between the 2013 and 2014 estimate was that "due to an increased nominated production rate from 40 Mtpa in FY2013 to 41.5 Mtpa in FY2014."[40]

In its 2014 annual report, BHP Billiton stated that Cerrejón had proved marketable coal reserves of 610 million tonnes with the coal having an ash content of 9.4%, 33.8% volatile matter, 0.6% sulfur and an average energy content of 6180 kcal/kg.[40]

BHP Billiton's 2019 annual report stated that Cerrejón's Colombian coal mining leases were set to expire progressively between 2028 and 2034, noting that no further production was scheduled at the Cerrejón mine beyond 2033.[29]

Environmental & human rights impact

Environmentalists, activists and academics have documented a plethora of negative impacts of the Cerrejón mine on local communities and ecosystems, including forcible displacement of the Afro-descendant Tabaco people, water pollution, and damage to the traditional agricultural economy.[41]

In July 2020, UNDARK Magazine reported "conflict with the local community, arising from both the pollution as well as infrastructure decisions that, the Wayuu say, have favored Cerrejón’s water needs over their own." UNDARK's report noted that a "comprehensive environmental study by the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), a non-governmental organization based in Bogotá, for example, found high levels of heavy metal contamination in local soil and water samples, as well as high levels of airborne particulate matter around the area of Cerrejón." In response "Cerrejón officials called into question, among other things, the group’s testing methodologies and equipment."[42]

In September 2020, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, David Boyd, called for the suspension of the mine “until it can be shown to be safe.”[43]

In January 2021, it was announced that BHP, Glencore and Anglo American would face an investigation over the mine's environmental and human rights impacts. Government officials from Australia, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK will be responsible for the investigation of the impacts of the mine under the terms of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which requires member countries to investigate alleged breaches by companies based within their jurisdiction.[43] In conjunction with the announcement, environmental and human rights activists in Australia, Switzerland, Ireland and the UK filed simultaneous complaints with the OECD calling for closure of the Cerrejón mine. The complaints cited Cerrejón's forced displacement of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, along with high rates of air and water pollution, cancer and metal intoxication affecting communities in the vicinity of the mine.[44]

In January 2022, the Swiss, Australian and UK National Central Points (NCPs) issued initial assessments confirming that the complaints deal with a credible issue and should progress.[45][46][47]

Labor disputes and blockades

In May 2021 Cerrejón coal announced that it had suspended operations at the mine as the result of a railway blockade organized by former workers.[48]

Activists hold a sign calling for the the Cerrejón company and Colombian government to respect their rights as ethnic communities. Source: Contagio Radio / Resumen Latinoamericano, September 2022.

In September 2022, the communities of Papayal, Manantialito, Barrancón, Vereda de Sierra Azul, Cocotazo, San Francisco, Tamaquito II, and other resettled communities organized to block the Cerrejón mine's southern operation, stating that the mining company had not complied with prior judgments and refused to work with the community on issues such as access to water, social investment, and jobs. As of September 6, peaceful roadblocks by indigenous activists had reduced Cerrejón's thermal coal production by 70%.[49][50][51]

Project Details

  • Owner: Cerrejón Coal Company[52]
  • Parent company: Glencore International AG[1][2]
  • Location: Albania, Barrancas and Hatonuevo in La Guajira, Colombia
  • GPS coordinates: 11.033968,-72.662926
  • Mine status:Operating[53]
  • Start year: 1985[35]
  • Mineable reserves: 900 million tonnes[5] with 190 mt proven and marketable and 120 mt probable and marketable[54][55]
  • Coal type: bituminous[56]
  • Mine size: 270 sq mi
  • Mine type: Surface
  • Production: 23.4 million tonnes (2021)[10][54]
  • Capacity: The mine has a capacity of 32 million tonnes[57]
  • Equipment: 493 pieces of equipment: 258 trucks with a load capacity of 190, 240, and 320 tonnes, 50 hydraulic shovels, and 185 pieces of auxiliary equipment.
  • Number of employees: 8,400[5]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Glencore agrees to acquire JV partners' shares in the Cerrejón mine and strengthens climate commitments". Glencore. June 28, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Glencore acquires Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia". Mining Technology. January 12, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. Mining Technologies The 10 biggest coal mines in the world Analysis by Mining Technologies, Oct 20, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 BHP Billiton, "Cerrejon Coal Company", BHP Billiton website, archived page from February 11, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Xstrata Coal, "Cerrejòn", Xstrata Coal website, accessed August 2010.
  6. BHP Billiton, "Annual Report 2014, BHP Billiton, September 2014, page 18.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Annual Report 2020" (PDF). BHP. September 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Annual Report 2021" (PDF). BHP. Retrieved 29 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Colombia Cerrejon's coal output soars 89% in 2021". Mining.com. February 28, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Sustainability Report 2021 (p 7)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "Colombia's 2021 thermal coal exports up 6% on yr". SX Coal. January 20, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Sustainability Report 2020 (pp 10, 86)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Sustainability Report 2019 (pp 18-19)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Sustainability Report 2018 (p 2)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Sustainability Report 2017 (p 9)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Our Numbers: Production". Cerrejón Coal Company. Retrieved 2023-01-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Sustainability Report 2016 (p 5)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Sustainability Report 2015 (p 7)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Sustainability Report 2014 (p 20)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. "Sustainability Report 2013 (pp 9, 17)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Sustainability Report 2012 (p 4)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Sustainability Report 2011 (pp 8, 11, 19)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Sustainability Report 2010 (p 5)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Sustainability Report 2009 (p 34)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Sustainability Report 2008 (p 21)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Sustainability Report 2007 (pp 52-53)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Sustainability Report 2006 (pp 21, 73)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Sustainability Report 2005 (p 15)" (PDF). Cerrejón Coal Company. January 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Annual Report 2019" (PDF). BHP. January 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. "Annual Report 2018" (PDF). BHP. January 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. "Annual Report 2017" (PDF). BHP. January 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 "Annual Report 2016" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 "Annual Report 2013" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 "Annual Report 2011" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 "CMC Coal Marketing Company", CMC Coal Marketing Company website, accessed March 2015.
  36. Cerrjon Coal Coampany, "Marketing", Cerrjon Coal Company website, accessed June 2010.
  37. Cerrejon Coal Company, "Exports volume", Cerrejon Coal Company website, accessed June 2010.
  38. Alex MacDonald, "U.K.-listed miners OK $1.3B Colombia coal plan", MarketWatch, August 18, 2011.
  39. "Annual Report 2012" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  41. "Opinion: Extinction Rebellion must decide if it is anti-capitalist, or pro-greenwashing". The Independent. October 23, 2019.
  42. Lisa Josesen Hermann,In a Fight Over a Colombian Coal Mine, Covid-19 Raises the Stakes, UNDARK, July 22, 2020
  43. 43.0 43.1 "OECD adds weight to United Nations' BHP investigation". Australian Financial Review. January 19, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  44. "NGOs file complaint before OECD, demand closure of Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia". Mining.com. January 20, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. "OECD initial assessments in coal mining case relating to BHP, Anglo American and Glencore". Lexology. 2022-01-12.
  46. "Initial Assessment: Complaint by Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) against Anglo American Plc, BHP Group Ltd and Glencore International" (PDF). Australian National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. January 10, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. "Initial assessment: Global Legal Action Network complaint to the UK NCP about Anglo American". UK National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. January 10, 2022.
  48. Coal miner Cerrejon to halt operations after blockades cut gasoline supplies, Economic Times, May 24, 2021
  49. "Blockades cut 70% of output at Colombia's Cerrejon coal mine". Reuters. September 6, 2022.
  50. "Colombia. «Lo único que El cerrejón ha traído es la muerte». Comunidades bloquean operación sur de la mina operada por Glencore". Resumen Latinoamericano. 5 septiembre 2022. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  51. "Mina de carbón Cerrejón en Colombia reduce en un 70% producción por bloqueos". DF Sud. 6 septiembre 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  52. Susan Wacaster, "2012 The Mineral Industry of Colombia", U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, June 2014, page 7.
  53. Amardeep Dhillon Extinction Rebellion must decide if it is anti-capitalist – and this greenwashing mining company shows us why Independent Oct. 23, 2019
  54. 54.0 54.1 Glencore Annual Report 2021, p. 249
  55. Mining Data Solutions, Cerrejon Mine, accessed November 2020
  56. Mining Technology Carbocol and Intercor Coal Mine Projects, accessed Nov 12, 2019
  57. Projects, IJGlobal, accessed Oct 2022

Related GEM.wiki articles

External resources

External links


  • La Buena Vida, A Documentary about the Involuntary Resettlement of Indigenous Communities in Colombia affected by Cerrejón coal mine, 2015.

Articles & Reports

Wikipedia also has an article on Cerrejon coal mine (Cerrejon coal mine). This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License].