Colombia’s National Mining Agency in the spotlight for proposed halt to coal mining concessions

Alvaro Pardo, president of Colombia’s National Mining Agency. (Image by Pardo’s social media team, Twitter.)

Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office sent a memo to the president of the National Mining Agency (ANM), Álvaro Pardo, asking him to make public the ruling that states that the agency will no longer grant concessions for the exploration and development of open-pit coal mining projects.

The request comes after the Attorney General, Margarita Cabello, learned about Pardo’s suggestions regarding this issue but noticed that there weren’t any legal documents backing such a proposal. 

The Attorney’s Office also demanded, through the Delegate for Environmental, Mining, Energy and Agrarian Affairs, the background or justification report that serves as a foundation for the proposed ban.

If the National Mining Agency refuses to comply with these requirements, the Attorney threatened to bring the case to the Ministry of Mines and Energy so that the competent portfolio can provide the administrative decision where the ruling has been written down and approved, in accordance with article 21 of the Administrative Procedure and Administrative Litigation Code. 

Pardo first floated the idea of halting the approval of coal mining concessions in December 2022, alleging that this was a campaign promise that President Gustavo Petro aimed to fulfill. 

At the time, he mentioned that 1,816 mining titles that sit in protected areas were going to be thoroughly reviewed, particularly as 48% of those did not have an environmental license. 

The issue came back to life in the past few months as Minminer workers are asking authorities to reopen the operation located in the central Cundinamarca Department, as it was shut down on March 14, 2023, following the explosion of six of its mines, an accident that killed 21 people.

This type of incident is not uncommon in Colombia, however. 

According to the Ministry of Mines, from 2011 to May 2022, there were over 1,600 accidents in coal operations, resulting in over 100 deaths per year. 

Coal, together with oil, are two of Colombia’s main sources of revenue