Colombia coal production up 6.5% in first quarter

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia, the world’s fifth-largest exporter of coal, produced 20.9 million tonnes of the fuel in the first quarter, up 6.5% from the same period in 2018, government figures showed on Wednesday.

Coal production in the South American country was 19.6 million tonnes between January and March last year.

Colombia produced 84.3 million tonnes over the course of 2018, 7.4% less than the previous year as heavy rains disrupted operations at major mines.

Coal is the second-largest generator of foreign exchange in Colombia, behind oil.

The sector provided the country with more than $170 million in royalties in the first quarter, a statement from the mines and energy ministry said.

The biggest players in Colombia’s coal industry are Drummond Co Inc, Glencore Plc and Murray Energy Corp’s Colombia Natural Resources. There is also Cerrejon, owned by BHP Group Ltd, Anglo American Plc and Glencore.

Leading coal companies have forecast that production and exports are likely to remain stable in 2019.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Phil Berlowitz