Colombia coal output up 0.5 pct in Q2-regulator

Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:06pm EDT

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* Cerrejon coal production falls in Q2 vs yr ago

* Drummond, Glencore output rise in April-June

BOGOTA Aug 12 (Reuters) - Coal production in Colombia, the world's No. 4 coal exporter, rose a paltry 0.5 percent in the second quarter to 20.3 million tonnes versus the same period last year, the country's mining regulator said on Friday.

Colombia's coal industry is dominated by big thermal producers with their own port and rail facilities such as Glencore, Drummond and Cerrejon, which is owned equally by BHP Billiton (BLT.L), Anglo American (AAL.L) and Xstrata XTA.L.

Exports of the material rose 2 percent to 18.8 million tonnes in the April-June period versus a year ago, the Ingeominas regulator said.

Production in Guajira province -- where Cerrejon, the country's largest exporter, has four of five licenses to mine -- fell nearly 11 percent in the second quarter to 7.79 million tonnes versus the same period last year, it said.

Output at Drummond's La Loma and El Descanso mines increased 8.3 percent to 5.93 million tonnes in the same period while output at Glencore's operations in Colombia soared nearly 24 percent to 3.25 million tonnes, the regulator said.

In the first half of the year, Colombia's total coal production rose 3.2 percent to 40.6 million tonnes versus the same period of 2010 while exports rose nearly 6 percent to almost 38 million tonnes in the same timeframe.

The regulator did not give a reason for output changes, but usually production at mines is affected by seasonal factors such as winter in Colombia's top markets Europe and the United States as well as global supply and demand for the material.

All the major thermal coal producers have expansion plans for their mines and export infrastructure, which the government hopes will double coal production in coming years.

Colombia's energy ministry expects coal output this year to jump 17 percent to 87 million tonnes versus 2010, close to the capacity limit of ports. [ID:nN31269660]

Infrastructure bottlenecks are seen as the main problem for Latin America's No. 4 oil producer as it seeks to hike important exports like crude oil, coal and coffee, while also expanding its mining sector.

The country's coal ports are nearing their limits but officials expect that by 2019 they can increase capacity to 149 million tonnes from 90.5 million tonnes currently. (Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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