Colombian coffee calling

Colombian coffee calling

18.02.2010 - Posted by Ross Hardie
In November 2009 I travelled from one coffee culture to another, from our office in South Melbourne to Colombia, South America. The trip was made at the invitation of Cerrejon Coal, to review their plans to avoid and mitigate the impacts of mining operations on the Rancheria River in north east Colombia. Cerrejon Coal is the largest mining operation in Colombia and one of the world’s largest open cut coal mines. Cerrejon Coal is jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore International (owned by Xstrata).

Rancheria River

This was my first trip to South America and my reception in Colombia was uncertain. I had, from the comforts of our office in South Melbourne, expressed some concerns to Cerrejon Coal over the impacts of their future mine operations on the river. This potentially uncertain reception was compounded by warnings of kidnappings and a developing spat between Colombia and neighbouring Venezuela.


So how did it go? Well I thought I was well prepared, having trained on those ‘skinny flat whites’ in South Melbourne. Not likely, I still had my trainer wheels on. The Columbian brews were short, thick, strong and not softened by milk. I was alert but not alarmed! The ever present security guards provided both comfort and a constant reminder of possibilities. Were they there for my protection or to ensure that I didn’t corrupt the locals with tea? I was warmly received by the Cerrejon team. They had a genuine commitment to the environment and to site rehabilitation, and an enthusiasm to embrace best practice waterway management. Best of all, I got to explore a rarely visited part of the world, establishing some great friendships while indulging in some seriously good coffee.

Wayuu people travelling to market

Trying arepas from a street vendor near Cerrejon Mine