AT THE COALFACE

Colombia 2019 | ENERGY & MINING | INTERVIEW

Coquecol is working toward consolidating itself as the leading company in the metallurgical coal market in Colombia.

Ricardo Blanco
BIOGRAPHY
Ricardo Blanco has been with Coquecol since 2017 and is currently its CEO. He is a business administrator and has an MBA from Los Andes University. He has wide experience in finance, risk management, and strategic planning. Over the last 30 years, he has occupied several positions in the financial and mining sector in Colombia.

How has 2018 been for Coquecol?
We restarted 100% of our operative coke batteries to produce approximately 280.000 tons of coke. This permitted us to have sales of approximately 1 million tons, including metallurgical coke and coal. In revenue, we have close to USD109 million in metallurgical coke and US92 million in coal. Total sales of the company in 2018 was close to USD201 million, achieving a growth of 69% in net sales and complying with 106.6% of the expected commercial budget. Furthermore, we have increased production and efficiency in our plants and strengthened the supply strategy through the purchase of Intercarbon Mining SAS.

Why do corporate giants choose Colombian metallurgical coal?
Colombia is the only producer of metallurgical coal in the region to attend to markets like Brazil, which consumes close to 10 million tons per year of met coal and perhaps close to 2 million of met coke. Furthermore, Mexico is also a major consumer of this raw material; therefore, Colombia has great potential because it is close to Brazil and Mexico, and we have a high quality of met coal and met coke; this allows for our industry to work with the best companies that provide this raw material. In addition, we have big clients in other countries, like India, the UK, South Africa, Canada, Poland, and the Netherlands.

What would you consider Coquecol's key export markets besides Brazil and Mexico?
Latin America is extremely important in our portfolio because we have a long-term contract with Gerdau to provide coal for 10 years. Our other market is for smelting coke that we produce in the north of Colombia for the market of ferroalloys. The results of this line of business in 2018 were extremely successful because of high demand. Our main clients in 2018 were in Asia, America, Africa, and Europe.

How would you describe Coquecol's approach to responsible mining in an environmental sense?
We work closely with our coal providers to ensure they produce it the right way. We supervise the mines and support them with equipment, technology, technical support, geologists, mining engineers, and so on. For example, we have miners and families that have worked with us for 10 years. They initially produced 400 tons per month, and today that same mine produces 5,000 tons per month. In addition, we have a strong government model to support our operation, and our environmental policy expresses the commitment to pollution prevention, continuous improvement, and compliance with legislation.

Can you elaborate on Fundación Coquecol?
The foundation has had important developments in the last year. We have four areas of interest; education, family, environment, and relationships. We support education in two ways: we help to refurbish the infrastructure of small schools in various towns and support teachers with university degrees, courses, and so on to increase their capabilities and qualifications. We provide financial aid to around 48 students per semester to go to the university. In addition, Coquecol has strict policies regarding its contracts with providers and suppliers and the way we manage that. We are a legal company in terms of government requirements. We work closely with the mayors of the small towns where we have our plants, supporting them with investments and supporting the community in general. Every year, we develop courses for the community and many programs for the small towns.

What is your outlook for 2019 and the short term?
We will continue working with focus in our main strategic goals to guarantee sustainability, improve productivity and profitability, develop innovation, and strengthen our organizational culture within the market. Projections of global growth lower than 2018 have a significant impact on important economies such as the US and China. In this way, we will continue walking on the path of consolidating Coquecol as the leading company in the metallurgical coal market in Colombia.