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Colombian coal mine
Industry Open-pit coal mining
Headquarters Albania, La Guajira, Colombia
Products Coal
Owner Republic of Colombia

Cerrejón is a field or coal mine, located in the basin of the Ranchería River, southeast of La Guajira Department in Colombia, east of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and west of the Perijá Mountains, in line with the border with Venezuela. It is an open-pit mine, and is one of the largest mines of that type. The coal mine was divided into three main corresponding areas Cerrejón North Zone, Cerrejón Central Zone and Cerrejón South Zone. The mine extends over 69,000 hectares (170,000 acres).


The 19th century[edit]

There is controversy about the discoverer of Cerrejon mine, and some names are shuffled: the American civil engineer John May, hired by the national government, which conducted the examination in 1864; the writer Jorge Isaacs; and Mr. Juan Gomez Osío, native of La Guajira. In the 19th century small scale mining began. [1]

Cerrejón North Zone[edit]

A major part of the history of the Cerrejón mine should be mentioned: the "defunct" company Intercor (International Colombia Resources Corporation) was in it's time called "The Cerrejón Zona Norte Coal Project".

In December 1976, a partnership contract was signed between Carbocol S. A. (Carbones de Colombia S. A.), a state-owned firm, and Intercor (International Colombia Resources Corporation Intercor), at the time Exxon, today ExxonMobil subsidiary, to develop the north zone of Cerrejón. This contract considered three stages: exploration (1977–1980), construction (1981–1986), and production (1986–2009). In January 1999, the Colombian government extended the concession for a further 25 years, to 2034.

  • In November 2000, the Colombian government sold its Carbocol S. A. shares (50%) in the partnership contract Cerrejón North Zone to a consortium comprising subsidiaries of BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Glencore International AG. Subsequently, Glencore sold its shares to Xstrata.
  • In February 2002, this consortium acquired the remaining 50% of shares from Intercor (ExxonMobil), thereby becoming sole concessioners of the Cerrejón North Zone.
  • In November 2002, the union of the purchased to Intercor and Carbones del Cerrejón S. A. was formalized, and the official name of the mine operator was changed to Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, Cerrejón.

Cerrejón Central Zone[edit]

In this zone, there are two areas under concession:

  • The Central Deposit (El Cerrejón community) has been in production since 1981 via contracts with different companies (a Domi Prodeco Auxini consortium, Carbones del Caribe, and others). In 1995, Glencore acquired Prodeco S. A., creating Carbones del Cerrejón S. A. and then in 1997, Anglo American became involved in the business. In 2000, BHP Billiton became the third partner.
  • The Oreganal Deposit (state-owned) was initially under concession to Carbones del Caribe by the national government. Then, in 1995, the concession passed to Oreganal S. A. which, in turn, ceded its shares to Carbones del Cerrejón S. A. in 1999.

Patilla Area[edit]

In 2001, after a public tender, this area was ceded to a consortium comprising Carbones del Cerrejón S. A. and Cerrejón Zona Norte S.A., which is currently concessioned to subsidiaries of BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata.

Cerrejón South Zone[edit]

In 1997, after a tender process, the exploration and mining contract for this zone was awarded to the consortium now comprising subsidiaries of BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata. Currently, the Cerrejón South Zone is under exploration.

Operation, installations and operator[edit]

The Cerrejón is a thermal coal mine, currently operated by the company “Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, Cerrejón”, currently extracting and exploiting coal in the coal mine Cerrejón. "Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, Cerrejón", producer and exporter operating in La Guajira department, Colombia. Its operations include an open-pit mine producing over 32 million tonnes of coal a year, a 150-km railway line, and Puerto Bolívar, a maritime shipping terminal servicing vessels of up to 180,000 tonnes. The added value of this mining operation lies in its integrated operation (mine-railway-port), which is unique in Colombia. The integration guarantees greater production efficiency and less environmental impact.

Corporate identity of the company Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, Cerrejón. Company currently, extractor and exploiter of the Cerrejón coal mine.
Overburden removal.
Mining operations at one of Cerrejón pits.
Coal train.
Bolívar Port.
  • The mine is located between the municipalities of Albania, Barrancas, and Hatonuevo in La Guajira, and has estimated resources of 5,244.20 million tonnes of coal.
  • It has maintenance workshops covering over 26,000 m2, where the mining equipment is checked and repaired (preventive, scheduled, and reactive maintenance).
  • Each train can haul 109 freight wagons, each of which has a nominal carrying capacity of 96 to 110 tonnes of coal.
  • Puerto Bolivar is the port of coal mine of the Cerrejón. It has had a direct-loading system since 1985. The navigable channel is 19 metres deep, 225 metres wide, and four kilometres long. It is one of the largest coal maritime ports in South America with clean technology.
  • The port also has a supply dock for ships of up to 70,000 tonnes carrying machinery, spare parts, fuel, and other supply goods for the mining operation.

Integrated Operation[edit]


  • From 1985 to 2011, the coal mine of the Cerrejón, produced 508.8 million tonnes of coal and generated US$ 2,006 million in royalties. In 2011 alone, sales generated US$ 336.60 million for the country as a whole and the region of La Guajira.
  • By the end of 2011, the mine of the Cerrejón, had reached an historical production figure of 32.03 million tonnes to the following markets: Europe (58%), the Mediterranean and Asia (21%), Central and South America (12%), and North America (9%).
  • These external sales represent 40% of Colombia's coal sales and 4.6% of global coal sales.
  • Carbones del Cerrejón's directly employed workforce numbers 5,373 workers (62% from La Guajira, 28% from other parts of the Caribbean coast, and 10% from the rest of the country).
  • In addition, a further 4,497 workers are employed indirectly through contractor firms for the operation.

Mining Fleet[edit]

Carbones del Cerrejón has a mining fleet comprising 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.

  • A 320-tonne truck can haul a load equivalent to approximately 10 tractor trailers. In Colombia, a tractor trailer hauls 30 to 35 tonnes.
  • A P&H 2800XPC shovel has a load capacity equivalent to the weight of 40 automobiles, that is, approximately 63.5 tonnes.
  • A PC8000 shovel can manage a load equivalent to 50 automobiles (approximately 75.3 tonnes).



  • The mine of the Cerrejón uses the only 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge freight railway in the country
  • The tracks are 150 km (93 mi) in length, connecting the mine with Puerto Bolívar

Puerto Bolívar

  • Largest coal-export port in Latin America
  • Covered conveyor belts and a direct-loading system since 1985
  • Receives vessels of up to 180,000 tonnes (180,000 long tons; 200,000 short tons)


  • 3,500 m (11,500 ft) of runway; Mine: 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) Puerto Bolívar: 1,600 metres (5,200 ft)
  • Restricted flight area

Mine-Puerto Bolívar Motorway

  • A motorway 150 km (93 mi) long for operational support and access for the population of La Guajira since 1982. It links the southern part of the department with the northern part.

Mushaisa Residential Unit

  • Complete infrastructure for housing, commercial shops, and services for 2,200 residents
  • 297 houses, 430 apartments, and a hotel for over 200 people
  • Albania School: a bilingual school with a very high ICFES ranking. It is currently ranked 23 out of 12,273 educational institutions in the country

Extraction Process[edit]

The extraction process begins with the identification and relocation of wildlife in the area slated for intervention. Then the land is cleared and the topsoil is removed and stored in soil banks for the future reclamation of areas intervened by the mining operation. Subsequently, the area is drilled and explosives inserted for blasting so the hydraulic shovels can remove the overburden. This waste rock is loaded on 240-tonne and 320-tonne trucks and deposited in waste rock dump sites.

  • Once the coal seams are exposed, the tractors pile up the coal and it is loaded onto 190-tonne trucks.
  • The coal is taken to one of two crushing plants and piled in accordance with its quality and calorific value.
  • The plant crushes the coal and transports it via conveyor belt to the top of the silos for loading onto rail wagons.
  • The train then sets off on its 150 kilometre journey to Puerto Bolívar.
  • At the unloading station, the train unloads the coal and the conveyor belts transport it to the three stacker-reclaimers, which unload it onto the storage piles. It is later reclaimed and sent to the linear ship-loader, which places it directly in the holds of the coal ships, which then set sail to various countries worldwide.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 11°05′22″N 72°40′31″W / 11.08944°N 72.67528°W / 11.08944; -72.67528