Case story

  • Colombia

BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc & Xstrata plc Review of Cerrejón Coal Mine, Columbia 2007

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Dispute between the Tabaco community and mining company regarding land resettlement issues.


Cerrejón is a coal mining operation in northern, central and southern zones. It is owned, in three equal parts, by subsidiaries of BHP Billiton plc, Anglo American plc and Xstrata plc. This operation is dedicated to the exploration, production, transportation and shipment of high grade thermic coal mined at Cerrejon's deposits. These are located in Guajira Department in the north of Colombia, the northernmost point of South America.

Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, equal owners of the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, commissioned in August 2007 an independent ‘social review’ of Cerrejon’s past and current social engagement to provide a credible assessment of the mine’s social impact and outstanding concerns. Though not explicitly a complaints or grievance resolution process, the panel’s recommendations provided insights into the resolution of a number of legacy issues, notably regarding concerns and grievances over the resettlement of the Tabaco community in 2000-01. The review was conducted independently of Cerrejon management by a panel of four internationally recognized experts in the area of social development, supported by a local consultancy to undertake fieldwork. The panel consulted extensively at the mine site and within local communities, as well as with international stakeholders. The panel’s report was published in March 2008 and highlighted a number of areas in which Cerrejon could enhance its social practices. Cerrejon's management subsequently produced a comprehensive response to the report as well as an action plan to address its findings. These documents are all publicly available.

Among its recommendations, the panel emphasized the need to address outstanding issues over the resettlement of the Tabaco community. It urged Cerrejon “to facilitate reconciliation between the disparate groups formed by the former inhabitants of the village of Tabaco…through a consultative, participatory process.” Taking up the recommendation, Cerrejon appointed the former Chair of the review panel to act as independent facilitator to a series of dialogue meetings with community members from August to December 2008. This led to an agreement setting out a number of commitments by Cerrejon, for example to purchase a new plot of land where the Tabaco community will be reunited.

According to the report released by the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), it is too early to evaluate whether the concerns and grievances over the Tabaco resettlement are indeed resolved but the recent agreement marks a significant step. According to Cerrejon, “the comprehensive independent review of our social processes has been a very constructive experience.”


Based on the reccomendation of the panel, Cerrejon's management developed a plan to address outstanding issues over the resettlement of the Tabaco community.


Contributor(s): This article was modified by Nicolaclayre (3), Kyle (3), Admin (1), and Daniel (1).