El Descanso mine

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El Descanso mine or Mina El Descanso is located in northern Colombia, near the El Paso municipality in Colombia's Cesar Department.[1] When mining began, the mine was considered the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world.[2][3]


The satellite photo below shows the location of Mina El Descanso, located between the municipalities of Becerril and Agustín Codazzi.[4]

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Mina El Descanso is operated by Drummond Ltd and owned 100% by Alabama-based Drummond Company Inc through its Colombian subsidiary Drummond International LLC.[5] The El Descanso mine was bought by Drummond from EcoCarbonin 1997.[6][7] It was the company's second mine when it began operation in 2009.[4] In August 2010 Drummond stated that it planned to expand the mine from its "current capacity of 3 million tonnes per year to 25 million tonnes per year over the next three years." The company also stated that this would require the expansion of the Puerto Drummond coal port which handles coal from both El Descanso mine and the company's Pribbenow mine. In a media release, the company stated that it had "committed to the government to build a direct ship loader" at Puerto Drummond.[8]

Coal Production & Exports

In early 2022, Drummond reported that it had been Colombia's leading coal producer for six consecutive years.[5] Combined production from all of Drummond's Colombian mines totaled 28.9 million tonnes in 2021, while exports rose to 31.5 million tonnes.[5] The El Descanso mine accounted for nearly three quarters of Drummond's Colombian production (20.6 million tonnes) in 2021.[5]

Coal production at Drummond's Colombian operations totaled 29.3 million tonnes in 2020[5] and 32.6 million tonnes in 2019[5][9], with the El Descanso mine contributing 21.5 million tonnes in 2020[5] and 23 million tonnes in 2019.[5][10]

Production and Exports - Drummond Mines in Colombia

Mtpa = million tonnes per annum
Year Production - El Descanso (Mtpa) Production - Pribbenow (Mtpa) Total Production (Mtpa) Total Exports (Mtpa)
2021 20.6[5] 7.6[5] 28.9[5] 31.5[5]
2020 21.5[11] 7.8[11] 29.3[5] 29.7[5]
2019 23.1[12] 9.5[12] 32.6[5] 31.1[5]
2018 30.8[5] 31.5[5]
2017 32.5[5] 32.4[5]


Mina El Descanso is a project of the Drummond Company Inc.[5] In 2011 Drummond sold a 20% stake in its Colombian mining operations to the Japanese company Itochu Corp.[13][14] In early 2021 Drummond Company Inc reassumed 100% ownership of the mines.[5]

Coal Spill

According to Wood Mackenzie, "In 2013, a barge ferrying coal at Puerto Drummond overturned and sunk. The incident resulted in the Colombian government suspending Drummond's export license for nearly a month and implementing a new regulation requiring direct ship loading as [of] 1 January 2014."[7]

Fatal Incidents

In April 2022, 38-year-old Orlando Silva Ramos was killed at El Descanso mine after a dump collapsed due to strong rain, burying him in the resulting landslide. Silva Ramos was believed to have illegally entered the facility with a group of other people, who reported what had happened to the authorities.[15]

On September 4, 2022, a Drummond bus carrying 14 mining company workers lost control and collided with a heavy-duty truck loaded with coal, 400 meters from the entrance to the El Descanso mine. Three workers were killed and several others injured.[16]

Environmental and Human Rights Impact

Three protestors stand in front of a gate and hold a banner reading, in all capitals, "Mina de carbón del Descanso = Genocidio, neocolonialismo, ecocidio."
Protestors in support of the Yukpa people stand in front of a government building. Source: Juan Pablo Gutiérrez / El Tiempo.

In 2017, the indigenous Yukpa community of the Cesar region filed a lawsuit against a mining company in the Serranía del Perijá, prompting Drummond to perform new investigations into whether the area of the Descanso mine coincided with Yukpa ancestral territory. Following this investigation, Drummond reiterated previous claims that "that there is NO evidence that Drummond's areas of operations coincide with ancestral Yukpa territory and, therefore, there is also no evidence of any affectation caused to said ethnic group." However, Yukpa spokespeople state that the coal deposit overlaps with and has disrupted sacred ancestral burial grounds, and that former mine workers have reported finding blanket-wrapped bodies of Yukpa community members at the site.[17]

In November 2021, activists from the Global Movement for Climate Justice, Extinction Rebellion, Oyawa, and other organizations staged simultaneous protests in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Seville, Milan, and Naples in support of the Yukpa people, asking the Colombian national government to return Yukpa ancestral territory. The activists, mobilized by Yukpa International Delgate Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, cited not only the need to protect cultural heritage but also El Descanso's impact on the biodiversity of the region, which in turn affects the Yukpa community's ability to source food.[18]

Project Details

  • Owner: Drummond International LLC[5]
  • Parent company: Drummond Company Inc[5]
  • Location: between the municipalities of Becerril and Agustín Codazzi, in Cesar Department of Colombia[1][2][4]
  • GPS coordinates: 9.7050912, -73.5231884
  • Mine status: Operating[4]
  • Start year: 2009[4][6]
  • Mineable reserves: 1.7 billion tonnes[6]
  • Coal type:
  • Mine size: 42,800 hectares[2]
  • Mine type: Surface
  • Production: 20.6 million tonnes per year (2021)[5]
  • Additional proposed production:
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees:2,496[19]

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 Drummond Ltd. Colombia mines organizational website, accessed Nov. 8, 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 El Tiempo Orginal: Drummond comenzó a explotar el carbón en El Descanso, Cesar Translation: Drummond began to exploit coal in El Descanso, Cesar El Tiempo July 31, 2008
  3. El Espectador original: Drummond inicia exportaciones de carbón de mina El Descanso translation: Drummond starts coal exports from El Descanso mine elespectador.com June 11, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Drummond ltd about operational website, accessed Nov 8, 2019
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 "2021 Sustainability Report 2021 (pp 12, 19-21, 57, 70)". Drummond Ltd. Colombia. January 31, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Drummond ltd timeline organizational site, accessed Nov. 8, 2019
  7. 7.0 7.1 Wood Mackenzie El Descanso coal mine Asset Report, August 30 2018
  8. Drummond "Drummond Limited Plans new development", Media Release, August 21, 2010.
  9. "Drummond cerró el año 2019 como el mayor productor de carbón por cuarta vez consecutiva: 32.7 millones de toneladas". Drummond Ltd. January 23, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "Drummond le apuesta a exportar 32.5 millones de toneladas en 2019". Radio Guatapurí. August 27, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 "2020 Sustainability Report (p 31)". Drummond Ltd. Colombia. January 2021.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "2019 Sustainability Report (p 42)". Drummond Ltd. Colombia. January 2020.
  13. "ITOCHU Corporation Invests in Drummond Company Colombian Mines | Press Releases | ITOCHU Corporation". ITOCHU Corporation. June 16, 2011.
  14. "Drummond to partially restart Colombian coal operations". S&P Global. April 9, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Bohórquez, Cristian (1 abril 2022). "Rescatan cadáver de hombre sepultado por un derrumbe en mina del Cesar". El Heraldo. Retrieved 3 October 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. "Tres muertos y varios heridos por accidente de bus de Drummond en Cesar". Semana. 5 septiembre 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. Ovalle Jácome, Ludys (23 noviembre 2021). "La lucha del pueblo yukpa por salvaguardar su territorio ancestral". Retrieved 3 October 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. Ovalle Jácome, Ludys (17 noviembre 2021). "Esta es la mina de carbón por la que protestan activistas internacionales". El Tiempo. Retrieved 3 October 2022. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. Drummond Ltd 2017 Annual report corporate document, accessed Nov. 8, 2019

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