Colombia’s coal output recovering fast — up 33.8% in Jan-March

Colombia’s coal output recovering fast — up 33.8% in Jan-March

Colombia’s coal production jumped up 33.8% to 24.6 million tonnes between January and March this year, data published by the country’s National Mining Agency (ANM) reveals (in Spanish).

During the period, Latin America’s largest coal producer exported 97% of its output, as its second largest thermal coal producer, Drummond, was banned from shipping the fossil fuel due to its failure to have its direct-loading port facilities operational by a New Year deadline.

Despite the efforts, total coal exports fell 13.1% in the quarter, dropping from 17.4 million tons in the first quarter of 2013 to 15.1 million tonnes in the same period this year.

Drummond, which produces about a third of Colombia's coal, resumed exports on April 1.

Mississippi-inspired plan

Last month Colombia said it is planning to dredge its biggest river, Magdalena, which could boost coking coal output fivefold.

According to the government agency, the project could potentially worsen a global oversupply of the steelmaking ingredient, but it will help reduce the cost of transporting commodities and other goods to the Caribbean coast by as much as 50% the actual rates.

The venture is loosely modelled on a 19th Century engineering project in the Mississippi River, which helped lift the US coal industry.

Some of the world's top mining companies have operations in Colombia, including Anglo American (LON:AAL) and BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP), which jointly own Cerrejon, the country's largest coal producer.