There are two categories of coal mining in Colombia: steam coal and metallurgical/coking coal. In steam coal, we have been an important player since the 1980s, and are now a strong player internationally. We are producing roughly about 81 million tons of coal per year for an industry we have developed over the last 25 years. In that segment we have seen particular success because the mines are located near the Atlantic Coast and the logistics have been fairly simple and straightforward. In terms of coking coal, we have discovered very good deposits in Cundinamarca, Boyacá, and in the north in Santander. The difficulty is logistics because the geography is complex. However, the potential is there. Colombia produced around 4.5 million tons of coking coal so far in 2012, which is a low level. We have to de-bottleneck the infrastructure, using the government's tools to move into public-private partnerships (PPPs). The process will take some time, largely because coking coal is not stable in terms of price fluctuation, in contrast to the steam coal segment, where companies can function in the financial market and hedge prices. As long as Colombia works toward improving its infrastructure, coking coal will become an important player within the local coal industry. The steam coal industry is already seeing companies make huge expansion plans. We are the leaders of a new era in terms of technology and investment in coking coal in Colombia.
Ricardo Gaviria Jansa
President, Minas Paz del Río
President, Brexia Resources
The greatest achievement to date has been the building of a team with high levels of expertise in the mining sector capable of working with international standards. This level of expertise is only just beginning to be built in the country. This can be evidenced by the absence of major metal mining projects developed over the past 20 years in the country; only small mining projects have been developed with local engineering or even in the absence of it in some cases. Therefore, when Tribeca, the largest private equity fund in Colombia, decided to build a mining company with international standards, it aimed at creating a leader in the sector capable of operating in the international market. Gold was the first segment our company tackled, but we have also entered segments such as zinc, lead, and silver, and are considering copper as well. Therefore, one of our top priorities has been to build the human resource talent and the development of proper standards and procedures in all areas: geology and exploration, project and plant management, HSEC-Q, marketing, and human resources. Hence, although there are plenty of talented people in the country, there is a need to improve the knowledge and capabilities base to manage and develop projects with international standards.
Ronald G. Stovash
President & CEO, Colombia Energy Resources, Inc. (CERX)
In Colombia, large mining companies produce huge volumes of thermal coal due to the margins being less than those for metallurgical coal. CERX came to Colombia because of the infancy of the met coal industry here. In 2011, Colombia produced approximately 86 million tons of coal, but only 4.4 million of that was metallurgical coal. The coal industry in Colombia has displayed slow growth due in large part to the transportation costs of moving product to the ports. Since global metallurgical coal prices have increased significantly, there is now a market for met coal in the interior of the country. I foresee that met coal prices will always see the fluctuation we have seen on the thermal side, however, instead of the fluctuation being down in the $60-$90 range, it is going to be up in the $150-$200 range. Colombia now has an opportunity to exploit its metallurgical coal resources. There is a large thermal coal supply globally, but the supply of met coal is considerably smaller and every day there is a decrease in that supply. For this reason, it was attractive for me to come to Colombia because there is a product here that is in high demand and should remain so in the future.