Colombia Local Authority Orders Drummond to Halt Coal Loading

A Colombian environmental authority ordered Drummond Co. to halt loading at its Caribbean port, potentially disrupting exports from the country’s second-biggest coal producer.

Corpamag, an environmental agency in Magdalena province where Drummond’s port operation is located, said the company must stop operations immediately until it can comply with new rules that coal must be loaded directly onto ships.

The ruling orders Drummond to “suspend all its activities of loading and unloading of coal done outside the system of direct loading.”

Colombia’s Environment Ministry said last month that the Alabama-based co. would be able to continue to load coal using barges and cranes for a time, and would face a “taximeter” of daily fines. The company said in a statement today that it will be ready to comply with the new rules by March.

The company didn’t reply to a phone call and e-mail seeking further comment.

Drummond’s loading license was suspended for three weeks in February after a sinking barge dumped coal into the Caribbean in January. The co. was also fined $3.6 million over the incident.

Drummond continued to export coal today and yesterday in violation of the new rules, Santa Marta Harbor Master Oscar Mantilla said today.

Corpamag director Orlando Cabrera didn’t return phone calls requesting comment. The Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Licensing agency didn’t immediately reply to e-mails seeking comment.

Drummond is the country’s biggest coal exporter after Cerrejon, a mining company owned by BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American Plc. and Glencore Xstrata Plc. Coal is Colombia’s biggest export after oil.

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