Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 601–610 | Cite as

Potential local and regional impacts of particulate matter emitted from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines

  • Roberto E. Rojano
  • Carlos A. Manzano
  • Richard A. Toro
  • Raul G. E. S. Morales
  • Gloria Restrepo
  • Manuel A. G. Leiva


This study was designed to evaluate the atmospheric total suspended particle (TSP) and particulate matter (PM10) concentrations and temporal variability in one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines (El Cerrejon) located in northeast Colombia, during 2012–2016. The results showed overall average TSP and PM10 concentrations of 86 μg m3 (CI95% 84–88 μg m3) and 34 μg m3 (CI95% 33–35 μg m3), respectively, with the highest concentrations between March and August each year. A time trend analysis of the results revealed that PM10 concentrations in particular have significantly increased between 6.2 and 7.7% per year (CI95% 1.2–12.8% year−1) in several of the monitoring stations. Meteorological parameters were also evaluated. It was observed that NE winds with speeds above 2 m s−1 were significantly correlated with an increase in the concentration of PM10 for selected downwind sites, which suggested that coal mining operations are an important source of atmospheric PM in the area. Regional long-range atmospheric transport scenarios showed potential effects on neighboring municipalities and countries within 72-h transportation events. These highlighted the need to develop new strategies to control the emissions of PM from the local mining industry to comply with local and international guidelines and regulations, particularly when industrial expansion is planned for the near future and relatively large population centers are in the area, of which a high proportion belong to indigenous populations.


Particulate matter Open-pit mining Temporal trends Cerrejon Colombia Long-range atmospheric transport 



The authors thank the logistic support of the University of Antioquia (Universidad de Antioquia), The University of La Guajira (Universidad de la Guajira) and the Center for Environmental Science at the Faculty of Science, University of Chile (Centro de Ciencias Ambientales, Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Chile). The authors gratefully acknowledge the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model for MacOS version ( used in this publication. Data will be made available on request.

Funding information

RER acknowledges partial support of Colciencias-Cerrejón joint program, Grant No. 1115-524-30465. MALG acknowledges support of National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research CONICYT/FONDECYT 2016 grant no. 1160617.

Compliance with ethical standards

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests. The funders had no role in study design, sample collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11869_2017_542_MOESM1_ESM.docx (7.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 7825 kb)


  1. Aneja VP, Isherwood A, Morgan P (2012) Characterization of particulate matter (PM10) related to surface coal mining operations in Appalachia. Atmos Environ 54:496–501. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ANLA (2015) Agreement No 0045 of January 22, 2015 (in Spanish). Colombian National Authority for Environmental Permits (ANLA for its acronym in Spanish). Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Republic of Colombia. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  3. Ashbaugh LL, Malm WC, Sadeh WZ (1985) A residence time probability analysis of sulfur concentrations at Grand Canyon National Park. Atmos Environ 19:1263–1270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BP (2016) BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017, 66th edn. BP p.l.c., London. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  5. Buseck PR, Jacob DJ, Posfai M, Li J, Anderson JR (2000) Minerals in the air: an environmental perspective. Int Geol Rev 42:577–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carslaw DC, Ropkins K (2012) openair—an R package for air quality data analysis. Environ Model Softw 27-28:52–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cerrejon (2016) Sustainability reports. Cerrejon’s Division of Corporate Affairs and Communications. Bogota, Colombia. Accessed 2 Jan 2018
  8. Chaulya SK (2004) Assessment and management of air quality for an opencast coal mining area. J Environ Manag 70:1–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CIOH (2010) Climatology of the main ports of the Colombian Caribbean Riohacha (in Spanish). Colombian Center of Oceanographic and Hydrologic Research (CIOH for its acronym in Spanish). Republic of Colombia. Cartagena, Colombia. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  10. CPCB (2003) Central Pollution Control Board. Ministry of Environment & Forests. Government of India. Printed at National Institute of Science Communication. Delhi, India. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  11. DANE (2005) General Census 2005 (in Spanish). National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE for its acronym in Spanish). Republic of Colombia. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  12. DEE (2008) Air Quality Standards. Department of Environment and Energy. Australian Goverment. Canberra, Australia. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  13. EIA (2017) International energy outlook 2017. Energy Information Administration. Energy Data & Statistics. United States of America Government. Washington, DC. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  14. EPA (1999) Reference Method for the Determination of Particulate Matter as PM10 in the Atmosphere. 40CFR50, Appendix J. United States of America Environmental Protection Agency. United States of America Government. Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  15. EPA (2011) Reference method for the determination of suspended particle matter in the atmosphere (high volume method). 40CFR50, Appendix B. United States of America Environmental Protection Agency. United States of America Government. Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  16. EPA (2017) Air Topics. United States of America Environmental Protection Agency. United States of America Government. Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  17. Finkelman RB et al (2002) Health impacts of coal and coal use: possible solutions. Int J Coal Geol 50:425–443. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George KV, Patil DD, Alappat BJ (2013) PM10 in the ambient air of Chandrapur coal mine and its comparison with other environments. Environ Monit Assess 185:1117–1128. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ghose MK, Majee SR (2001) Air pollution caused by opencast mining and its abatement measures in India. J Environ Manag 63:193–202. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghose MK, Majee SR (2007) Characteristics of hazardous airborne dust around an Indian surface coal mining area. Environ Monit Assess 130:17–25. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grantz DA, Garner JHB, Johnson DW (2003) Ecological effects of particulate matter. Environ Int 29:213–239. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kim KH, Kabir E, Kabir S (2015) A review on the human health impact of airborne particulate matter. Environ Int 74:136–143. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Koçak M, Theodosi C, Zarmpas P, Im U, Bougiatioti A, Yenigun O, Mihalopoulos N (2011) Particulate matter (PM10) in Istanbul: origin, source areas and potential impact on surrounding regions. Atmos Environ 45:6891–6900. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kunzli N et al (2000) Public-health impact of outdoor and traffic-related air pollution: a European assessment. Lancet 356:795–801. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lei YD, Wania F (2004) Is rain or snow a more efficient scavenger of organic chemicals? Atmos Environ 38:3557–3571. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leiva MA, Santibanez DA, Ibarra ES, Matus CP, Seguel R (2013) A five-year study of particulate matter (PM2.5) and cerebrovascular diseases. Environ Pollut 181:1–6. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MADS (2010) Resolution number (610). Ministry of environment, housing and territorial development. Republic of Colombia. Bogota, Colombia. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  28. Manzano CA et al (2016) Temporal variation in the deposition of polycyclic aromatic compounds in snow in the Athabasca Oil Sands area of Alberta. Environ Monit Assess 188:542.
  29. Manzano CA, Marvin C, Muir D, Harner T, Martin J, Zhang Y (2017) Heterocyclic aromatics in petroleum coke, snow, lake sediments, and air samples from the Athabasca oil sands region. Environ Sci Technol 51(10):5445.
  30. Molina C, Toro R, Morales RGE, Manzano C, Leiva-Guzman MA (2017) Particulate matter in urban areas of south-central Chile exceeds air quality standards. Air Qual Atmos Health 10:653–667. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. National Research Council N (2010) Global sources of local pollution: an assessment of long-range transport of key air pollutants to and from the United States. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Oh HR et al (2015) Long-range transport of air pollutants originating in China: a possible major cause of multi-day high-PM10 episodes during cold season in Seoul, Korea. Atmos Environ 109:23–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Onder M, Yigit E (2009) Assessment of respirable dust exposures in an opencast coal mine. Environ Monit Assess 152:393–401. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. QGIS (2016) QGIS Development Team. QGIS Geographic Information System. Open Source Geospatial Foundation Project. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  35. Querol X et al (2004) Speciation and origin of PM10 and PM2.5 in selected European cities. Atmos Environ 38:6547–6555. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rojano R (2015) Eficiencia en la reducción de emisiones de PM10 en un pit de una mina de carbón a cielo abierto. VIII Congreso Latinoamericano de Ciencias Ambientales. Sociedad de Química Ambiental de Chile, Pocun, p. 140Google Scholar
  37. Rojano R, Arregoces H, Angulo LC, Restrepo G, Marin JM (2017) Factor and cluster analysis for PM10 concentrations in an open pit coal mine: Cerrejon, Colombia. Interciencia 42:44–50Google Scholar
  38. Rolph G, Stein A, Stunder B (2017) Real-time environmental applications and display system: READY. Environ Model Softw 95:210.
  39. Salvador P et al (2016) Composition and origin of PM10 in Cape Verde: characterization of long-range transport episodes. Atmos Environ 127:326–339. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Song XY, Shao LY, Zheng QM, Yang SS (2014) Mineralogical and geochemical composition of particulate matter (PM10) in coal and non-coal industrial cities of Henan Province, North China. Atmos Res 143:462–472. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stein AF, Draxler RR, Rolph GD, BJB S, Cohen MD, Ngan F (2015) NOAA’S HYSPLIT atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling system. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 96:2059–2077. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tecer LH, Suren P, Alagha O, Karaca F, Tuncel G (2008) Effect of meteorological parameters on fine and coarse particulate matter mass concentration in a coal-mining area in Zonguldak. Turkey J Air Waste Manage Assoc 58:543–552. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tolis EI et al (2014) Chemical characterization of particulate matter (PM) and source apportionment study during winter and summer period for the city of Kozani. Greece Cent Eur J Chem 12:643–651. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang YQ (2014) MeteoInfo: GIS software for meteorological data visualization and analysis. Meteorol Appl 21:360–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wang YQ, Zhang XY, Draxler RR (2009) TrajStat: GIS-based software that uses various trajectory statistical analysis methods to identify potential sources from long-term air pollution measurement data. Environ Model Softw 24:938–939. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. WCI (2005) The coal resource - a comprehensive overview of coal. World Coal Institute. World Coal Association. London, UK. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  47. White AF, Blum AE (1995) Effects of climate on chemical-weathering in watersheds. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 59:1729–1747. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. WHO (2006) Air quality guidelines - global update 2005. World Health Organization. Ginebra, Suiza. Accessed 19 Nov 2017
  49. WHO (2016) Global urban ambient air pollution database - news release. World Health Organization. Ginebra, Suiza. Accessed 10 Oct 2017
  50. Xin YJ, Wang GC, Chen L (2016) Identification of long-range transport pathways and potential sources of PM10 in Tibetan Plateau uplift area: case study of Xining, China in 2014. Aerosol Air Qual Res 16:1044–1054. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
corrected publication [May 2018]

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto E. Rojano
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlos A. Manzano
    • 3
  • Richard A. Toro
    • 3
  • Raul G. E. S. Morales
    • 3
  • Gloria Restrepo
    • 2
  • Manuel A. G. Leiva
    • 3
  1. 1.Grupo de Investigación GISA, Facultad de IngenieríaUniversidad de La GuajiraRiohachaColombia
  2. 2.Grupo Procesos Fisicoquímicos Aplicados, Facultad de IngenieríaUniversidad de Antioquia SIU/UdeAMedellínColombia
  3. 3.Centro de Ciencias Ambientales y Departamento de Química, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile

Personalised recommendations