Colombia steps up oil and coal production despite Russian sanctions

The European country stopped buying Colombian coal in 2016 for human rights reasons.

“Six years ago Ireland replaced Colombian coal with Russian coal…but when the war started they came knocking on our doors again,” Mesa said.

The demand for coal is so high that mining companies like Drummond, one of Colombia’s largest producers, have managed to secure contracts for the next 18 months, Mesa said.

Poland has signed for one million tonnes of coal from Drummond and is expected to contract for another two million tonnes, he said.

Colombia has also increased its coal exports to the Netherlands, Spain and Canada since Russia invaded Ukraine, he added.

Mesa said he expects Colombian oil production to reach at least 800,000 barrels per day by the end of this year and up to 900,000 barrels per day by 2023.

“Any excess production will be used internationally,” he said.

Colombians will vote in the second round of presidential elections on Sunday to replace President Ivan Duque, who can no longer run.

Gustavo Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla and current senator, is tied in the polls with Rodolfo Hernandez, a former mayor who is running on anti-corruption pledges.

Petro said it would honor contracts already signed for oil and mining, but would not sign new ones, which would rattle many in the energy sector.

Oil and mining combined provide more than 50% of Colombia’s monthly exports, according to government figures.

Hernandez is considered pro-business but, like Petro, said he would not support the commercial use of fracking.

Mesa said Colombia’s rule of law record will continue and signed contracts will be honored regardless of who wins.

(By Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Richard Pullin)