BOGOTA, March 11 (Reuters) - Colombia’s government said on Tuesday it expected its second biggest coal miner, U.S.-based Drummond Co Inc, to resume exports of the fuel from around March 24 as it nears completion of an upgrade to its port to meet new environmental legislation.
The government shut the port in January after the new law took effect, slashing the country’s coal exports by about a third after it banned the use of cranes and barges to load boats, a practise outlawed due to the pollution it caused.
“On the 24th of this month, Drummond’s port should enter into service. There are ships on their way already and which will be at the port by this date,” Mines and Energy Minister Amylkar Acosta told reporters.
Resumption of Drummond’s exports looks likely to be the end for now of more than a year of logistics and labor strife that has blighted the Andean nation’s coal production and caused it to fall 4 percent short of its production target in 2013 when output totaled 85.5 million tonnes.
Asked about the minister’s comments, a source at Drummond told Reuters on Tuesday that the company was holding to its estimate of the end of March to complete works at the port and resume exports.
Drummond was unable to finish building the now legally-required conveyor belt loading system before the law took effect, and has not shipped coal since around Jan. 12. It said in January it expected to export again from late March.
Prices on the coal market in Europe, where most of Colombia’s thermal coal exports are consumed for power and heat generation, initially rose on the news but have begun to ease again for April delivery contracts in anticipation that Drummond’s shipments will resume soon.
Cargoes for delivery in May to the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA) were trading at $76.50 a tonne, up $1.60 from the previous settlement, with 50 lots traded.
ARA cargoes for delivery in March were up $0.60 at $72.00 a tonne, while European year-ahead coal futures ATWYF5 were up $0.27 at $80.70 a tonne.
For more stories on the port loading ban, see: