BOGOTA, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Colombia's economy could grow 1.5 percentage points faster each year if the government set clearer rules to draw more investment into the Andean nation's mining sector, the head of a new private sector mining association said on Tuesday.
The mining sector says lack of coordination between national and local authorities, delays in issuing environmental licenses and growing opposition to extractive industries by communities living near projects are hampering the activity.
Colombia has mineral resources including coal, gold, nickel, emeralds and cement.
"In a very conservative calculation, we are talking about one and a half percentage points for GDP in the coming years, just looking at projects of strategic national interest," said Santiago Angel, head of the Colombian Mining Association at an event on Tuesday marking its launch.
He said no large-scale mining project had opened in the country in more than 20 years. This was limiting foreign direct investment and job creation, he said, and the growth of a sector that represents 2.2 percent of the economy and 19 percent of exports. Colombia is the world's fourth-biggest coal exporter.
The head of Colombian gold miner Mineros, Beatriz Uribe, said in an interview with Colombian financial daily Portfolio this week, that Colombia needed to make clearer whether it supported mining as a means to develop the country.
She said the company was considering abandoning exploration projects in Tolima province because of problems with the local community, local authorities and licensing delays while the country's on-going five-decade conflict with leftist guerrillas kept it from working at its sites in Bolivar province.
Colombia has been growing faster than most other countries in Latin America, holding annual expansion above 4 percent since 2010. The government has forecast the country will grow 4.7 percent this year but is expected to raise that view.
The government has recognized a need to improve coordination between local and national entities but says it is beginning to improve by shortening the time required to obtain environmental and other licenses. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Andrew Hay)