Colombia seeking to side-step loading law

COLOMBIAN Mining Minister Amylkar Acosta is working to find a way around a new law coming into effect January 1 that will ban coal miners from manually loading fuel by crane in an effort to keep from interrupting operations by one of its largest producers.

Donna Schmidt
Colombia seeking to side-step loading law

Acosta told media Monday that the soon-to-be-required belt-loading system being constructed by top Colombian coal player Drummond would not be finished in time for the January 1 deadline.

He said the agency was now communicating with other miners in the country regarding the loading of coal onto ships through ports that the company owns or operates.

“We at the ministry are exploring alternatives such as other ports that can make available, if possible, space so that through these alternative ports, Drummond can continue its loading, because not doing so would also hit production,” he told Reuters.

The official said late Monday he was also planning a meeting with Drummond Colombia’s operations chief; no information was available on that meeting at press time Tuesday.

Under the nation’s new law, miners producing coal for export must load via a fully enclosed conveyor belt that is suspended over the ocean water and stretches out to sea for the loading of coal ships, much different – and supporter have said much less polluting – than current methods involving cranes to transfer coal tonnage from port to barge to ships.

Acosta said that Drummond said it will need a few months beyond the deadline at the start of the new year to finish its belt. The delay has caused a headache for some traders on the Atlantic coal market, to where much of Colombia’s export coal is exported.

In addition to being South America’s largest coal producer, Colombia is also the fourth largest coal exporter in the world.

Last month, Colombian officials said they were seeking a way to permit the nation’s miners to continue exporting coal even if the deadline for mandated automated loading was not met.

Coal trade participants told Reuters even then that US-based Drummond would not have its system done in time, thanks in part to a lengthy miners’ strike in July.

Drummond has made no public comment on the report or the status of the project.

“What is for sure is that there are companies that won't manage to be up and running by this date and they will have difficulties that the government, as I understand, is looking at to see in what way this can be resolved,” ministry director for corporate mining Javier Garcia told the news service three weeks ago.

“Extending the deadline would imply modifying it with a law because there is no other way and I understand that [the government] is looking into by what means it could do this.”

One unnamed coal trade source told Reuters that Goldman Sachs’ export facilities also will not be ready, though it is one of the smaller miners in the country.

Colombian coal shipments account for 12% of the country's total exports, according to national data.


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