BOGOTA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Colombia's Santa Marta port has the daily capacity to handle 20,000 tonnes of coal mined by U.S.-based Drummond Co Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc's CNR should they request it, an official from the port said on Friday, after the two companies' port facilities were shut down until they comply with a new environmental law.
The companies are no longer able to load their coal onto ships, because since Jan. 1 coal miners must use a direct loading system of conveyor belts that pour the coal into the vessels' holds, instead of the now-banned, polluting crane and barge system both miners have been using.
Drummond, Colombia's second-biggest coal miner, expects to complete construction of its conveyor belt system by around March, while Goldman's CNR, a small producer also known as Colombian Natural Resources, says it will need up to 18 months to comply with the new law.
The 20,000 tonnes of capacity at Santa Marta's port equals about one-fourth of Drummond's daily output. Drummond produces about a third of the coal mined in Colombia, the world's fourth-biggest coal exporting nation.
The source at Santa Marta's port, who was not allowed to speak on the record about the issue, said the facility has handled coal from both miners in the past. It was delivered by truck to Santa Marta port from the company's facilities nearby.
Prices for handling of cargo at the port are negotiated rather than fixed, depending on capacity available and other factors, the source said. He said the port was operated by a group of investors but its infrastructure was publicly owned.