Heli A. Arregocés This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2, Roberto Rojano1, Gloria Restrepo2

1 Grupo de Investigación GISA, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de La Guajira, Riohacha, Colombia
2 Grupo Procesos Fisicoquímicos Aplicados, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Antioquia SIU/UdeA, Calle 70 No. 52–21, Medellín, Colombia

Received: December 15, 2020
Revised: April 13, 2021
Accepted: April 14, 2021

 Copyright World Health Organization (WHO). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.200664  

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Cite this article:

Arregocés, H.A., Rojano, R., Restrepo, G. (2021). Effects of Lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic on Air Quality at Latin America’s Largest Open-pit Coal Mine. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.200664


  • PM10 in Cerrejón mine increased by 13–38% and 4–7% in North and South Zones.
  • Increase of surface PM is significantly influenced by the behavior of PBLH.
  • AOD spatial values are related to regional meteorology and external source input.
  • PM2.5 concentrations increased by up to 43% during the lockdown.
  • Biomass burning contributed up to 60% of PM2.5 concentrations.


Particulate Matter is the main pollutant produced in open-pit mining operations. Its emission into the atmosphere is strongly associated with adverse health effects in the surrounding communities. The objective of the study is to evaluate the impact of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the particulate matter (PM) levels in the Northern, Central, and Southern Zones of the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America. We analyzed and compared daily data on PM10 and PM2.5 before and during the emergency shutdown from the week of March 6 through April 13, 2020, while comparing daily values from the combined product of the Terra-Aqua/MODIS satellites to elucidate the effects of the closure. Unlike other sites monitored globally, we observed an increase in the average PM10 concentrations in the Northern Zone (13–38%) and Southern Zone (4–7%) of the coal mine. Additionally, PM2.5 concentrations increased in the Southern Zone by up to 43% throughout the lockdown when compared to daily records prior to the commencement of mandatory isolation. PM10 concentrations in the Central Zone decreased (26–31%) in the course the lockdown. Further, higher aerosol optic depth (AOD) values (≥0.4) were evident over the Central and Southern study areas during the lockdown, as well as significant AOD loads upwind and downwind of the coal production pits. Wetter (up to 3.5%), warmer (up to 0.3 K), reduced planetary boundary layer height (up to 0.11 km), wind field variability, and biomass burning in rural areas determine the spatial–temporal behavior of PM. The reduction of emissions from PM-mining activities was almost compensated by changes in meteorology and external sources. These results provide a baseline for regulators to establish future mitigation plans.

Keywords: Aerosol, Particulate matter, Meteorology, Lockdown

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