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Colombia's March Coal Exports Rise 6.5% on Year



By Chris Kraul

May 6, 2020 - Colombia exported 5.9 million mt of coal in March, an increase of 6.5% from March 2019, but a decline of 17% from February, according to data available Tuesday on the website of DANE, the government statistics agency that tracks foreign trade.

Reflecting the sharp decline in coal prices, receipts for March exports totaled $322.59 million, a 30.6% decline from the same month last year, despite the year-on-year volume increasing. March receipts were 30% less than what was billed in February, according to DANE data.

In the first three months of 2020, Colombia exported 27.1 million mt of coal, a 55.4% increase in volume from the same period in 2019. The exports were unusually elevated because exporters in January and February raised sales volumes fearing that a strike at the Cerrejon mine, Colombia's second largest, would curtail mining activity.

Although members of the Sintracarbon union did declare a stoppage in March, they voted to delay the walkout until the end of June because of the impact of the coronavirus contagion.

The owners of the Cerrejon mine subsequently reduced mining sharply in response to a government edict to protect workers from the virus, but this week began to gradually re-establish operations, according to a statement Monday.

Cerrejon co-owners Glencore, BHP and Anglo-American have announced they are considering selling their open pit mine located in northern Guajira province because of what they described as dim future demand prospects for Colombian coal.

Although Colombia has been among the world's top half a dozen coal exporters in recent years, its traditional electric power plant customers in the US and Europe are shifting toward more renewable fuels.

Drummond, Colombia's biggest coal miner in terms of export volume, began to ramp up its mining operations last month after a virus-imposed lull.

Export receipts from coal over the first three months of 2020 totaled $1.61 billion, a 5.2% increase from the first quarter of 2019, thanks in large part to the unusually high level of shipments earlier this year.