Only until recently have foreign investors realised the full potential of Colombia’s extensive coal reserves (estimated at 20 000 Mt of proven and inferred reserves). Coal quality is good with most reserves consisting of high-quality bituminous coal and a small amount of metallurgical coal. The coal is relatively clean-burning, with sulphur contents of less than 1%. Colombia is becoming an important global exporter of coal – exporting 357 Mt in 2001, slightly up from the previous year’s 35 Mt. Colombia is currently the second largest exporter to Europe as well as the largest to the USA. Coal exports are currently the country’s second largest income earner. The state run coal producer Carbones de Colombia (Carbocol) intends doubling exports to over 60 Mt over the next few years. Most coal deposits are located on the Guajira peninsula on the country’s northeast Atlantic coast. The Colombian government intends increasing production from five new mining concessions located in the Guajira region south of El Cerrejon. However, infrastructure in the region needs to be upgraded to cope with the anticipated increased in production.
Although the coal industry is in state hands, private companies operate individual coal mines. The Cerrejon Zona Norte (CZN) coal mine is one of the largest coal mining operations in Latin America, and hosts one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines. The deposit contains at least 950 Mt of proven reserves to a depth of 100m and produces over 19 Mt each year. A consortium comprising Anglo Coal, Glencore International AG and BHP Billiton purchased ExxonMobil subsidiary Intercor’s 50% share in the mine in late 2001. The consortium also have an equal sharing in Carbones del Cerrejon (CdelC), another major facility localted nearby to CZN. CdelC supplies steamcoal to customers in the USA, Europe and the Middle East, via the port of Puerto Bolivar. Currently, CdeC produces an estimated 3Mt each year with production estimated to increase to 20 Mt per year. Combined mineable reserves have been estimated at cotaining 270Mt. CdeC’s low production is attributable to poor access to rail and port facilities – an issue that has been resolved with Colombian authorities.
US based coal producer, Drummond intends increasing coal export output from its La Loma mine to over 15 Mt per year through an increase in investment. La Loma is located in the Cesar Province.
Anglo Coal is part of a consortium consisting of BHP Billiton and Glencore that are developing two major contiguous coal facilities, Carbones del Cerrejon and Cerrejon Zona Norte.
Drummond Company Inc.
Glencore International AG