Colombia Steps Up Coal Expansion Push as Global Glut Sinks Price

  • Minister: nation's coal output last year to top 90m tons
  • Seeks coal production close to 100 million tons in 2016

Colombia’s answer to the global coal glut: produce more. 

Latin America’s biggest coal-producing nation plans to increase output this year after targeting more than 90 million metric tons last year, Mines and Energy Minister Tomas Gonzalez said in an interview in Davos, Switzerland Thursday.

“For 2015 we’re talking about in excess of 90” million tons, he said. “We’ll wait to see how we closed the year because there were specific things that impeded coal transport,” such as railroad restrictions that were lifted in November.

This year, the government is looking to take production of coal -- the country’s main export after oil and a key source of government revenue -- to “as close to 100 million tons” as possible, Gonzalez said. That would add to a global oversupply that’s sent prices plummeting and bankrupted some miners.

Miners in Colombia -- including operations owned by BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc -- have scrambled to cut costs in the face of falling prices. Thermal coal for European delivery fell as low as $43.20 per ton this month, as weak growth and a global drive toward cleaner energy hits demand.

Colombia’s 2015 coal production target was to top 90 million tons, Gonzalez said in a May 11 interview. The country’s mining association had forecast about 80 million tons. Production in 2014 was 88.6 million tons.

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