Cerrejon coal mine

From Global Energy Monitor


This article is part of the Global Coal Mine Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.
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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]


On its website, Xstrata Coal states 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]


Cerrejón has a resource base of about 5 billion tons, of which 2.1 billion tons are currently measured and indicated to be of export quality, according to the companies. Xstrata said it is one of the largest coal deposits in the world.[6]

Xstrata Coal states that the mine employs 8,400 people and has a "reserve base in excess of 900 million tonnes."[5]

In its 2014 Annual Report, BHP Billiton stated that total production in the 2013/2014 financial year was 36.9 million tonnes with the mining complex having a "a reserve life of 17 years."[7]

Cerrejón Coal Company stated that in 2009 56% of its production was exported to Europe, 17% to North America, 12% to Central and South America and 15% to "other destinations".[8] Since 1985, Cerrejón Coal Company has exported over 500 million tonnes.[9]

Coal from Cerrejón is marketed by CMC Coal Marketing Company, a company owned equally by BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc and Xstrata plc. CMC Coal Marketing Company is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland but also established a subsidiary office in Atlanta in 2005.[10] [9]

In February 2011 BHP Billiton's website stated that coal from Cerrejón was "exported largely to Europe, but also to the USA and South America."[4]

BHP Billiton's 2019 annual report states that its share of coal production at the mine (33.33%) totaled 9.23 million tonnes, down 13% from FY2018.[11] In 2020, production declined by 33% due to worker strikes and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.[12] In 2021, it declined a further 30%, in part due to a 91-day strike.[13]

Total annual production figures for the Cerrejón mine over the past twelve years are as follows (with BHP Billiton's share in parentheses):

  • 2010: 30.465 mta (BHP Billiton's share: 10.155 million tonnes)[14]
  • 2011: 29.667 mta (BHP: 9.889 million tonnes)[14]
  • 2012: 34.989 mta (BHP: 11.663 million tonnes)[15]
  • 2013: 30.051 mta (BHP: 10.017 million tonnes)[15]
  • 2014: 36.996 mta (BHP: 12.332 million tonnes)[16]
  • 2015: 33.873 mta (BHP: 11.291 million tonnes)[16]
  • 2016: 30.282 mta (BHP: 10.094 million tonnes)[16]
  • 2017: 32.877 mta (BHP: 10.959 million tonnes)[17]
  • 2018: 31.848 mta (BHP: 10.616 million tonnes)[18]
  • 2019: 27.690 mta (BHP: 9.230 million tonnes)[11]
  • 2020: 21.345 mta (BHP: 7.115 million tonnes)[12]
  • 2021: 14.892 mta (BHP: 4.964 million tonnes)[13]

Consortium proceeds with P40 expansion plan

See Cerrejón P-40 Expansion

Reserve life

As the global price of thermal coal has plummeted since 2011, the reserve life of the mine - even before the P40 expansion has been fully commissioned - has been substantially truncated. In its 2011 annual report BHP Billiton stated that the mine had a reserve life of 23 years.[14]

In each of its three subsequent annual reports the company has dropped the reserve life by two years.[19][15][20]

[20]As of its 2014 annual report, BHP Billiton stated that the reserve life of the mine was 17 years.[20] 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."[20]

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. It states that the coal has an average energy content of 6180 kcal/kg.[20]

BHP Billiton's 2019 annual report states that its Colombian coal mining leases expire progressively between 2028 and 2034, and notes that no further production is scheduled at the Cerrejón mine beyond 2033.[11]

Environmental & human rights impact

Environmentalists, activists and academics have documented several 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.[21]

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."[22]

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.”[23]

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.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25][26][27]

Labor dispute 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.[28]

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%.[29][30]

Project Details

  • Owner: Cerrejón Coal Company[31]
  • 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[32]
  • Start year: 1985[9]
  • Mineable reserves: 900 million tonnes[5] with 190 mt proven and marketable and 120 mt probable and marketable[33][34]
  • Coal type: bituminous[35]
  • Mine size: 270 sq mi
  • Mine type: Surface
  • Production: 27.69 million tonnes (2019); 23.4 million tonnes (2021)[11][33]
  • Capacity: The mine has a capacity of 32 million tonnes[36]
  • 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.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Glencore acquires Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia". Mining Technology. January 12, 2022.
  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. Alex MacDonald, "U.K.-listed miners OK $1.3B Colombia coal plan", MarketWatch, August 18, 2011.
  7. BHP Billiton, "Annual Report 2014, BHP Billiton, September 2014, page 18.
  8. Cerrejon Coal Company, "Exports volume", Cerrejon Coal Company website, accessed June 2010.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "CMC Coal Marketing Company", CMC Coal Marketing Company website, accessed March 2015.
  10. Cerrjon Coal Coampany, "Marketing", Cerrjon Coal Company website, accessed June 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Annual Report 2019" (PDF). BHP. January 2020.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Annual Report 2020" (PDF). BHP. September 2021. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Annual Report 2021" (PDF). BHP. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Annual Report 2011" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2012.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Annual Report 2013" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Annual Report 2016" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2017.
  17. "Annual Report 2017" (PDF). BHP. January 2018.
  18. "Annual Report 2018" (PDF). BHP. January 2019.
  19. "Annual Report 2012" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2013.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). BHP Billiton. January 2015.
  21. "Opinion: Extinction Rebellion must decide if it is anti-capitalist, or pro-greenwashing". The Independent. October 23, 2019.
  22. Lisa Josesen Hermann,In a Fight Over a Colombian Coal Mine, Covid-19 Raises the Stakes, UNDARK, July 22, 2020
  23. 23.0 23.1 "OECD adds weight to United Nations' BHP investigation". Australian Financial Review. January 19, 2021.
  24. "NGOs file complaint before OECD, demand closure of Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia". Mining.com. January 20, 2021.
  25. "OECD initial assessments in coal mining case relating to BHP, Anglo American and Glencore". Lexology. 2022-01-12.
  26. "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.
  27. "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.
  28. Coal miner Cerrejon to halt operations after blockades cut gasoline supplies, Economic Times, May 24, 2021
  29. "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. Retrieved 30 September 2022. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  30. "Mina de carbón Cerrejón en Colombia reduce en un 70% producción por bloqueos". DF Sud. 6 septiembre 2022. Retrieved 30 September 2022. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  31. Susan Wacaster, "2012 The Mineral Industry of Colombia", U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, June 2014, page 7.
  32. Amardeep Dhillon Extinction Rebellion must decide if it is anti-capitalist – and this greenwashing mining company shows us why Independent Oct. 23, 2019
  33. 33.0 33.1 Glencore Annual Report 2021, p. 249
  34. Mining Data Solutions, Cerrejon Mine, accessed November 2020
  35. Mining Technology Carbocol and Intercor Coal Mine Projects, accessed Nov 12, 2019
  36. 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].