Drummond to reopen north Colombia port, pending environmental inspection

(Photo: Colprensa)

Colombia’s Ministry of Environment announced it will conduct a thorough inspection of the Drummond Company’s port facilities, following a series of sanctions leveled against the United States-based coal giant for skirting Colombia’s environmental laws.

Environmental Minister Luz Helena Sarmiento told Caracol Radio that the inspections will preclude the re-issuance of Drummond’s environmental license, which has been suspended for over two months.

“We’ll see if [the company’s port] meets conditions according to the measures we took and once the inspection is done, we’ll verify if [the company] is ready to initiate its operations,” she said.

Drummond, the second largest coal producer in Colombia, the fourth largest producer in the world, has not been able to use its sole private port facility since early January and has been forced to suspend activity at its mines as a result.

MORE: Santos orders minister to assure Drummond respects environmental regulations

The company was given several deadline extensions to update its port to a direct-loading system following a January 2013 incident in which a Drummond barge illegally dumped 2,000 tons of coal into the Bay of Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Drummond continued to rely on a crane and barge system, however, even after being ordered to pay $3.5 million as part of its broader clean up responsibilities for the spill, and when the most recent deadline passed on January 1, 2014, the minister suspended the company’s shipping license until its port could be brought up to snuff.


MORE: Colombia fines Drummond for $3.5M over Caribbean coal dump

It now seems that the company’s initial projections of a late March completion date to a reported $350 million port expansion and modernization project will be met, and the Ministry of the Environment has confirmed that Drummond could soon be allowed to recommence its international distribution operations, pending the results of an inspection.

MOREAlternatives don’t float boat for US coal giant Drummond

The ministry will verify that the new loading system adheres to the latest standards, and will also be implementing a new series of tests, including one to measure air quality surrounding the port operation.

The company has not announced what the total impact of the suspension has been on its output, but early estimates using figures from 2013 predicted the company could lose over 16% of its annual production.


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