Coal production in Colombia, the world’s No. 5 exporter, rose 6% to 20.3 million tonnes in the first quarter of this year while exports jumped nearly 10%, the country’s mining regulator said Thursday.
Colombia’s coal industry is dominated by big thermal producers with their own port and rail facilities such as Glencore, Drummond and Cerrejon, which is owned equally by BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata.
Production in Guajira province — where Cerrejon has four of five licenses to mine — grew 6.5% to 8.2 million tonnes in the first quarter compared to last year. Energy Minister Carlos Rodado said coal production would jump 17% to 87 million tonnes this year, uncomfortably close to the capacity limit of ports.
Infrastructure bottlenecks and deficiencies are seen as the main problem for Latin America’s No. 4 oil producer as it seeks to hike important exports like crude oil, coal and coffee, while also expanding its mining sector.
The country’s coal ports are nearing their limits but officials expect that by 2019 they can increase capacity to 149 million tonnes from 90.5 million tonnes currently.
Exports and production from Drummond’s La Loma mine fell 16.2% to 3.8 million tonnes in the first three months of this year, but jumped 32% at the company’s El Descanso mine, reaching 1.7 million tonnes in the same period.
Glencore’s Prodeco unit saw output and exports rise 35% to 3.6 million tonnes in the quarter, the body said. Glencore is the world’s largest commodities trader and plans to increase Colombian coal output to 20.7 million tonnes by 2015 with capital costs of $2.6 billion.