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Colombia coal mining gets a timely boost from Texas firm

HOUSTON, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Colombia's coal production received a timely boost after new deals secured by

Colombia Clean Power & Fuels, Inc., a Texas company with an active subsidiary in the Latin American country.

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Colombia Clean Power & Fuels, Inc. said it completed the acquisition of two initial coal mining concessions and reached agreement on acquiring a third adjacent concession in the Santander district of Colombia, covering another 10,873 acres. The new acquisition brings the company's total concession coverage to 17,481 acres.

Colombia is the world's 10th largest producer and fourth largest exporter of coal, with an estimated 7.7 billion tons of recoverable reserves and 18.7 billion tons of potential reserves, the second-largest in South America after Brazil.

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In a few years, Colombia has more than doubled production that reached 95.4 million tons in 2008. Coal earns one-fourth of the country's total export revenue.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Colombia's coal production will continue to increase in coming years, as exploration and mining development continue. Colombia's coal consumption was only 5.72 million tons in 2008, leaving most of the production available for export.

Colombia completed the privatization of its coal sector in 2004 with the closing of state-owned Minercol company, and has encouraged private investors since. The largest coal producer, Carbones del Cerrejon consortium, made up of Anglo-American, BHP Billiton and Glencore, operates the Cerrejon Zona Norte, the largest coal mine in Latin America and the largest open-cast coal mine in the world.

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Edward Mooney, chief executive officer of Colombia Clean Power & Fuels, said the acquisitions gave the company confidence it could achieve its goal of controlling more than 300 million tons of proven reserves.

The company has already begun exploratory drilling program as part of feasibility work on a formal mining plan. Operations so far have involved coal mining, coal coking and clean coal technology use.

Most Colombian coal exports go to Europe, other parts of South America and North America, with the vast majority of producing and exporting infrastructure on the Caribbean coast. In the first nine months of 2009, the United States imported 15 million tons of Colombian coal, about 80 percent of total U.S. coal imports.

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Also last year, Colombia began exporting sizable quantities to Asian markets, especially China, in response to a combination of higher prices in Asia, lower freight costs and a drop in exports to the United States.

Analysts said the expansion of the Panama Canal -- likely to be completed by 2015 -- could help Colombia export greater quantities of coal to Asia.

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