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Colombia’s Nickel Reserves: A Blessing And Curse – Evaluation

6 min read

By Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

The Colombian authorities is raring to develop and diversify the nation’s mining trade by exploiting vital minerals, together with nickel, which is at the moment solely mined in Cerro Matoso.

As international demand for this vital mineral reminds excessive, nickel could be very worthwhile for Colombia’s mining trade and financial system; nonetheless, we can’t overlook points associated to nickel mining, together with environmental destruction and well being issues for staff and native inhabitants. Even violence has turn out to be commonplace round Cerro Matoso.

Colombia’s Nickel

Colombia’s nickel mining operations are centered within the Cerro Matoso mine, Cordoba division, which has round two thousand staff and began manufacturing in 1982. “The entire reserves within the mine quantity to barely under 300 kilotons of nickel. It is without doubt one of the world’s largest open-pit ferronickel mines. In 2023, the mine is anticipated to provide 43.5 kilotons of nickel, 4% up from 2022 ranges of 41.7 kilotons,” in line with a late December 2022 report. Equally, in a September 2022 interview for El Colombiano, Ricardo Gaviria, president of Cerro Matoso, defined that the mine anticipated to provide greater than 41,000 tons of nickel in 2022 and expects to surpass 45,000 tons in 2023. Colombia has the tenth-largest nickel reserves on the planet.

The economist Tomás González, a former minister and present director of Colombia’s Regional Middle for Vitality Research (Centro Regional de Estudios de Energía: CREE), defined to the Colombian division La Razon the significance of Cordoba division, the place Cerro Matoso is positioned, for Colombia’s vitality transition:

Nickel is without doubt one of the basic minerals for the [global energy] transition, all these methods that can be required to provide low-emission vitality … nickel [will be needed to manufacture them], and nickel is in Cordoba, and we’ve got to consider it, not nearly gasoline but additionally strategic minerals for the [energy] transition.

The Way forward for Nickel Mining in Colombia

The Colombian authorities desires to create as many as 30 new mining areas nationwide. For instance, concerning the Santander division, information stories counsel that gold may very well be mined there. The Petro administration has developed a Nationwide Growth Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo: PND), which incorporates goals and techniques for Colombia’s Ministry of Mining and Vitality (Ministerio de Energia y Minas). In line with the Colombian every day El Colombiano, the plan declares that the nation’s mining coverage “can be up to date with an emphasis on the use and administration of mechanisms for environmental mining administration” and also will promote and prioritize the “exploration, extraction and formal commercialization of strategic minerals resembling copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium amongst others.

In different phrases, nickel may be very a lot within the thoughts of Bogota. In reality, nickel is on the Colombian authorities’s record of strategic minerals. In line with the Colombian media, Bogota plans to challenge a brand new Mining Legislation (Ley Minera) to help small and medium mining enterprises, specializing in the exploitation of vital minerals, together with nickel.

Entities just like the American-Colombian Chamber of Commerce (Camara de Comercio Colombo-Americana) help nickel mining. In a press launch issued simply this previous 30 Could, the Chamber argued that the US’s 2022 Inflation Discount Act, which promotes inexperienced applied sciences to fight local weather change, can enhance Colombia’s mining of copper and nickel. The Chamber additionally famous that US demand for nickel is rising, and Colombia at the moment ranks because the US’s twenty eighth largest provider of nickel. New nickel mines throughout Colombia would undoubtedly imply that provides to the US will improve, given the shut bilateral ties between the international locations, together with the Free Commerce Settlement (FTA) between the 2 international locations. “Colombia is already a small nickel producer and will shift its ferronickel manufacturing to nickel sulfate, utilized in electrical car (EV) batteries.”

In response to a question about the place else nickel could be discovered within the South American nation since Cerro Matoso is the one mine that produces nickel, the mine’s president  Gaviria is optimistic. “With the coverage of whole peace by President Gustavo Petro, we hope to begin creating exploration work in [other areas] of the nation that in the present day are very advanced attributable to public order points, resembling Tarazá and Ituango (Antioquia), in addition to within the north of Nariño and south of Cauca… there may be nonetheless nickel to extract throughout the nation,” he concluded.

Relating to the way forward for nickel mines within the Cordoba division, the Colombia every day El Tiempo famous this previous 24 April that there are three deposits in Cordoba (Cerro Matoso, Planeta Rica, and Uré) and three in Antioquia division (Ituango, Pelon, and Medellin). Cerro Matoso’s Gaviria famous: “We’re finishing up some prospecting research in areas near the Queresas and Provenir initiatives for the reason that … mineral has been discovered. We’re finishing up ultimate analyses, however there are ample assets for potential manufacturing.” However, he famous that the San José de Uré venture was discarded “for the reason that degree of prospecting was not sufficient to spend money on extracting nickel.” The mine’s senior official confirmed that Cerro Matoso will comply with the mine proprietor South32’s goal to advertise an environmentally sustainable mining operation and scale back the operation’s carbon footprint by greater than 50% by 2030.

Whereas Cerro Matoso is worthwhile, the mine is usually the goal for criticism for a number of causes.

Wealth and Dying in Cerro Matos

We are going to now focus on the affect of the Cerro Matoso mine in Montelíbano municipality, Córdoba. “If Montelíbano is understood for one factor, it’s the Cerro Matoso mine… alongside the route into city, vans squeeze by one another on slender roads, transporting ferronickel to the port metropolis of Cartagena. From right here, nickel is shipped off to China, the USA, and Europe, the place it’s used to provide chrome steel merchandise,” explains an evaluation by Spanish every day El Pais.

Whereas Cerro Matoso is significant for the nation’s nickel trade, a supply of employment and revenue, the mine “has been decried by group members, journalists, and activist teams for its adverse well being and environmental impacts on neighboring communities… Cerro Matoso takes up practically 85 hectares of land in the midst of an indigenous reserve belonging to the Zenu de l’Alto San Jorge folks. A number of indigenous communities encompass the mine, together with one village — Puerto Colombia — which is located simply 750 meters from the mine.” Residing subsequent to the mine has triggered extreme well being issues for inhabitants.

The mining firm has denied all accusations concerning air air pollution. Nonetheless, native inhabitants and mine staff are reportedly getting sick, “plenty of gases are launched throughout these operations…They include substances which are usually carcinogenic, together with cancerous crystalline silica,” mentioned Victor Pineda, a former mine worker. The mine’s proprietor, South32, has fought courtroom instances towards the alleged destruction and air pollution attributable to the Cerro Matoso mine. Colombia’s Externado College has analyzed considered one of these authorized instances towards the corporate.

Furthermore, there are accusations that the mine pays the Gulf Clan (Cartel del Golfo) to be allowed to function, and, in flip, the paramilitaries threaten, damage, and even kill people who protest the mine’s operations. Living proof, the Colombian journalist Rafael Moreno was murdered in October 2022, reportedly for his journalistic work into corruption in Cordoba division, together with the Cerro Matoso mine. Thus far, his case is unresolved.


Colombia is targeted on exploiting its mineral assets throughout the Petro administration. The federal government’s new improvement plan and proposed mining regulation show that mining throughout the nation will develop within the coming years. At present, solely the Cerro Matoso mine in Cordoba mines nickel within the South American nation, however prospecting is underway for brand new deposits. Colombia can undoubtedly revenue from extra nickel mines, and the USA, an in depth ally, will definitely be a prepared importer of this vital mineral; nonetheless, we should not neglect environmental destruction, affect on human well being, and even violence associated to nickel mining.

In regards to the creator: Wilder Alejandro Sánchez is president of Second Flooring Methods, a consulting agency in Washington, DC. He’s an analyst that displays protection & safety, geopolitical, and commerce points throughout the Western Hemisphere, Jap Europe, and Central Asia.

Supply: The views expressed on this article belong to the authors alone and don’t essentially replicate these of

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