* Government suspends coal loading at Drummond's port
* Colombia's coal sector suffers from series of problems
By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA, Feb 7 Colombia's second-largest coal
exporter, Drummond Ltd, vowed on Thursday to take
"corrective" measures at its Caribbean port after a coal-loaded
barge nearly sank in bad weather last month.
Colombia's environmental licensing body suspended loading at
Drummond's port on Wednesday after an incident that local media
said had spilt coal into the nearby waters in mid-January.
The company has not released any information on whether or
not coal leaked into the sea.
In a statement on Thursday, Drummond said it "will proceed
to suspend all coal loading activities for now and will work
with the Colombian authorities to get our workers back to work
as soon as possible."
It added: "Drummond Ltd. will take all corrective actions
necessary to optimize the operation under the best environmental
and safety standards, while it concludes the construction stage
of its direct ship loading system for coal."
Drummond's port problems add to a possible strike at
Colombia's top exporter, Cerrejon, and a payment dispute at a
Goldman Sachs Group Inc affiliate, which in total could
shut off nearly 85 percent of daily national coal production.
Prices for coal delivered into northwestern Europe moved up
slightly on Thursday as did near-term swaps on concerns about
supply from Colombia.
Colombia, the world's fourth-largest coal exporter, has seen
an investment boom in oil and mining since a U.S.-backed
security offensive began a decade ago, but environmental and
social concerns are on the rise.
Drummond is an 80-20 joint venture with Japan's Itochu Corp.
The company expects coal output to rise to up to 31 million
tonnes in 2013 from a lower-than-expected 26 million to 27
million tonnes last year, according to an interview published in
local media in late 2012.
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, Anglo American and Xstrata.