The Colombian energy and mining minister said coal and oil production is booming, despite “growing pains.”
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Mauricio Cardenas said the improved security situation in the country meant it was heading for the “major leagues” of energy exporting nations.
Cardenas said, “With the country’s transformation over the last 10 years, we have been able to bring in many companies, and the results speak for themselves.
“Colombia is now nearing one million barrels a day of production, almost double five years ago. We now produce at an annual rate of 75 million tons per year and by 2015 will reach 100 million tons, nearly all of which we export.”
A record $10 billion has been invested in Colombia’s energy and mining sector this year, Cardenas said, calling the country “the last frontier.” He attributed the booming industry to “improving security and having a business-friendly government.”
But “infrastructure is a real bottleneck,” said the minister, referring to a lack of adequate pipelines and transport networks.
“Oil pipelines are close to full capacity and so we are transporting a lot of our oil by truck, which disrupts surrounding communities … In the case of coal, the need is even more dramatic. We need more railroads to transport it all, but there are conflicts over environmental impacts with towns in the right-of-way corridors.”
Conflict between multinational companies, workers and communities is also an issue, said Cardenas, but claimed the government was working on this.
“We need to develop a new model for these extractive industries with better standards in terms of bringing development to these communities … The idea that oil companies come here and just pay taxes and royalties is not a valid proposition. We need to get them involved in the development of these communities,” said the minister.
Thousands of workers at the Canadian-owned Pacific Rubiales oil company went on strike last month over labor and wage negotiations. Ecopetrol, Colombia’s state-run oil company, has been accused of ignoring the murders of union workers and other human rights abuses.