Cerrejón lifts force majeure caused by blockades

Cerrejón’s Bolivar port. (Image by Inf-Lite Teacher, Flickr).

After having declared force majeure due to a couple of blockades taking place since early May, Colombian coal mine Cerrejón informed that it will be gradually resuming operations this week. 

In a media statement, Cerrejón said the restart is only possible after having been able to rebuild its fuel inventory once the picket lines blocking its railway and the Bolívar port were lifted. 

The railway blockade started on May 5 and was being led by former workers who, according to the miner, were demanding their jobs back and additional compensation. The workers, on the other hand, told local media that they were fired without a cause.  

Due to the protest, Cerrejón was not able to mobilize gasoline into the mine so management resorted to tank trucks to move fuel from the port into the operation. However, on May 20, 2021, people from the Media Luna community decided to block the entrance to the port demanding jobs. 

The blockades completely hindered the company’s ability to bring in fuel and, therefore, the force majeure had to be declared on May 24, 2021, and all contracts were suspended.

According to Cerrejón, which is owned by BHP Group, Anglo American and Glencore, the provincial and federal economies lost about $1 million in royalties, taxes and parafiscal payments for each day the mine was not able to operate. 

On May 27, the blockades were finally removed after the former workers, the community and the miner met with the Ministry of Mines, the Presidential Councillor for Competitiveness, the Ministry of Interior, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Armed Forces, the Governor of La Guajira and the Uribia Mayor.

Once it was able to access both the port and the railway, the miner sent out 60,000 tonnes of coal for export.

Last year, Cerrejón also had to deal with a worker uprising in the form of a three-month strike led by the nearby Wayuu Indigenous community and its largest union.

Built 30 years ago, Cerrejón is an integrated mining and transportation complex that includes an open-pit mine, a 150-kilometre railway line and a Caribbean port. In 2020, the mine produced 12.4 million tonnes of coal, almost 52% less than the output it registered the year before.

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