BOGOTA, May 29 (Reuters) - The Colombian coal unit of Glencore International PLC on Wednesday opened a port with a capacity of 21 million tonnes a year to boost exports and comply with more stringent environmental regulations on coal loading.
The $550 million ‘Puerto Nuevo’ port in the Caribbean province of Magdalena will load coal directly onto ships rather than using barges, a system that sometimes causes environmental damage because coal can be spilled into the ocean.
“What will this lead to? We will be able to continue exporting coal, to continue adding fuel, so to speak, to mining, the (economy’s) driving force,” President Juan Manuel Santos said during the inauguration.
Prodeco is Colombia’s third-largest coal exporter and last year it produced 14.7 million tonnes. It plans to ramp up production to around 21 million tonnes by 2015.
Colombia, the world’s No. 4 coal exporter, has seen a boom in investment, especially in the oil and mining sectors.
Its high-quality thermal coal production is dominated by Cerrejon - equally owned by Anglo American Plc, BHP Billiton Ltd and Xstrata Plc ; Drummond International and Prodeco.
The three companies are increasing output and expanding infrastructure.
Drummond is building a port next to Prodeco’s harbor to expand export capacity as they increase production and to comply with the change in port rules.
Cerrejon’s port is already direct loading.