GlencoreXstrata: Cerrejón Coal Mine, Colombia

The Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia is operated by BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata (now Glencore plc). The mine’s poor work and safety conditions have led to serious employee and public health issues and even fatalities (26 deaths from 2009 to 2011). The mine is also reportedly responsible for  river contamination and other environmental violations. Furthermore, the mine’s subsequent expansions have led to the forced resettlements of many communities.[1] Several people who have attempted to protest against the mine have been threatened, some even murdered.[2] The Wayúu indigenous community that live in this region fears that their cultural identity will be  rendered extinct.[3] The companies recently made plans to expand the mine towards a protected forest and a major water source.

In April 2013, communities from Colombia demonstrated in London against the mine’s harmful activities, which are said to currently jeopardize the health of approximately 13,000 people working in and/or living near the mine. The Cerrejón mine, which has only extracted 500 million of the 5 billion tons anticipated for its lifetime, is expected to bolster production over the next few years by 25%. Miners claim that the Cerrejón mine has destroyed over 12,000 hectares of dry tropical forest, displaced at least five communities, and upset the region’s natural river flow.[4]

Critics also blame the mine´s high water extraction rates and contamination of water sources for the drought in the La Guajira region in summer 2014.[5]

[1] london mining network (2011): bhpbilliton – dirty energy. Alternative Annual Report 2011 

[2] FIAN, according to Reprisk Company Profile on AngloAmerican

[3] No a la mina (2014): La comunidad Wayúu que será desalojada por Cerrejón 29 September; Greenpeace (2012): Schwarzer Fluch, 18 June (accessed 11.12.2014)

[4] Vidal, J. (2013): Colombian miners hit out at Anglo American, The Guardian, 15 April (accessed 23.09.2013)

[5] Urrea, D. (2014): The thirst of coal; london mining network, 12 September (accessed 30.09.2014)