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Cerrejon Coal Mine

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The Cerrejon Mine, located in the Guajira peninsula in northeast Colombia, is the world’s largest export open-pit coal mining operation.[1] The majority of the coal recovered from the mine is exported to Europe, although some is sold to the U.S. and South America.

The coal produced at the mine is used for power station fuel as well as for pulverized fuel injection in steel making applications. Cerrejon consists of proven in-situ reserves of 950 metric tons at a depth of 328 feet (100 m); 2,000 metric tons at a depth of 656 feet (200 m); and 3,000 metric tons to a depth of 984 feet (300 m). It also has 330 metric tons of surface mineable reserves.[2]

The mine comprises a 170,502-acre (69,000-ha) area of coal deposits. Almost 4,000 people, in addition to approximately the same number of contractors, are employed at the mine.[3]

The equipment used in the operations at the Cerrejon mine is some of the largest and most modern in the world.[4]

The mine is divided into five contracted areas: North Zone, Patilla, Oregana, Colombian State, and Comunidad del Cerrejon;[5] coal is produced from seven open pits.

In addition to the mine itself, the area includes on-site shops where machines such as trucks, tractors, and scrapers are maintained,as well as reconstruction shops and administration offices. Telecommunications systems link the mine with the railway and port to which it is connected, and the city of Bogota.

Contents

[edit] Construction History

[edit] North Zone

The North Zone of the Cerrejon Mine is the oldest area, with exploration having begun in the late 1970s. In December 1976, Carbocol S.A., a coal company owned by the state, and ExxonMobil affiliate Intercor, signed a contract to jointly develop North Zone.

The contract outlined three separate developmental phases: exploration would take place between 1977 and 1980; construction would be carried out from 1981 to 1986 by American contractor Morrison Knudsen Co.; production would occur from 1986 to 2009.

The initial 2009 end-date was extended in January 1999, when the Colombian government agreed to allow production to continue until 2034.

Mining involvement changed in November 2000 when the Colombian government sold Carbocol’s half of the North Zone contract to a consortium consisting of BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc, and Glencore International AG. Soon after, Glencore sold its share to Xstrata plc.

In February 2002, by purchasing the other half of the North Zone contract from ExxonMobil affiliate Intercor, for US$366 million,[6] the consortium became the sole operators of the North Zone.

[edit] Central Zone

The Cerrejon Mine’s Central Zone consists of two contracted areas: the Central deposit and Oreganal deposit.

The Central deposit, known as Comunidad del Cerrejon, has been in production since 1981. Several different companies contracted the area, including Domi Prodeco Auxini consortium, Prodeco, and Carbones del Caribe before Glencore acquired it in 1995 and established Carbones del Cerrejon S.A. Two years later, Anglo American became involved in the zone’s operations, followed by BHP Billiton in 2000.

The Oreganal deposit is owned by the state. Originally, operations were carried out through a contract between Carbones del Caribe and Colombian State, known today as Minercol. In 1995, Oreganal S.A. joined the contract; soon after, its share was acquired by Carbones del Cerrejon.

[edit] Patilla

The Patilla area of the Cerrejon Mine has been in existence since 2001. Sold through public bid, Patilla was acquired by a consortium consisting of Carbones del Cerrejon Ltd. (formerly known as Intercor) and Cerrejon Zona Norte S.A., owned by BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc, and Xtrata plc.[7]

[edit] South Zone

1997 saw the acquisition of the exploration contract of South Zone was by a consortium consisting of BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc, and Xstrata plc.

The South Zone of the Cerrejon Mine is not currently in the production stage—exploration is currently being carried out.

[edit] Daily Mining Operations

Approximately one metric ton (probable error) of material is mined daily. Panels that have been mined out are progressively backfilled with excavated overburden.

[edit] Preparing the Area

The first step in open-pit mining is the cleaning of the surface area and subsequent removal of topsoil. This topsoil is kept and stored, as it is later used for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the exploited land.

Following the stripping of the topsoil, the overburden is drilled and blasted to expose coal seams. The overburden is then carried to permanent waste dumps or stored for later use as backfill.

At the Cerrejon Mine, overburden is removed using 12 P&H 2800 electric mining shovels with 36-cubic yard (27.5-m3) buckets. These buckets load materials into 136 Wabco and Euclid rear-dump trucks. Two Demag H241 hydraulic shovels with 18.3-cubic yard (14-m3) buckets facilitate operations.[8] To prepare coal seams for mining, surface cleaning is carried out with rubber-tired bulldozers.

[edit] Coal Production

Once the overburden is removed, coal is ripped or drilled and blasted in order to break it up before being bulldozed into windrows.

Broken coal is lifted from the windrows by 33-cubic yard (25-m3) buckets attached to LeTourneau L-1100 and L-1200 wheel loaders. The LeTourneau machines load the coal into 16 rear-dump trucks with capacities of 154 tons, which unload into one of three 300-ton capacity hoppers.[9]

The coal is crushed to -1.9 inches (–50 mm) in a 3,500-ton per hour capacity crushing plant.Crushed coal is then moved by conveyor into two loadout silos. Generally, about 20 percent of coal contains a higher ash or sulfur content. This coal is stored in large piles before being crushed and prepared for blending.

[edit] Transporting for Export

Once the coal has been properly refined, it is brought to a railway connected to the mine and loaded into two 120-car trains and transported down the 93-miles (150 km) to the Puerto Bolivar port. Generally, these trains make four trips and transport 48,000 tons of coal per day.[10]

At the port, coal is either placed in stockpiles in a 1.7-metric ton capacity stockyard with three stacker-reclaimers, or moved to a shiploader to be loaded onto a waiting vessel; either operation is carried out with the port’s 6,000-ton per hour coal-handling system.

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] References

  1. What We Do: The Mine. Cerrejon, 2008-09-24.
  2. El Cerrejon Coal Mine, Colombia. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.
  3. What We Do: The Mine. Cerrejon, 2008-09-24.
  4. What We Do: The Mine. Cerrejon, 2008-09-24.
  5. What We Do: The Mine. Cerrejon, 2008-09-24.
  6. El Cerrejon Coal Mine, Colombia. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.
  7. Official Cerrejon Coal website
  8. El Cerrejon Coal Mine, Colombia. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.
  9. El Cerrejon Coal Mine, Colombia. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.
  10. El Cerrejon Coal Mine, Colombia. Mining-Technology.com, 2008-09-24.