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The Colombian government and the country's Asomineros mining association have launched a campaign to encourage thermal coal exports to fire power plants in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Central America, according to Asomineros president Carlos Alberto Uribe.
The aim is primarily designed to promote coal exports from the center and west of the country, which is of high quality and much cheaper for use in thermo power generation, Uribe told BNamericas.
"This type of coal could cost half what is presently being paid for bunker fuel, which, although subsidized, costs twice what it would cost to generate energy using coal from Colombia," he said.
Colombia's export promotion agency Proexport has launched a campaign to promote the use of coal, including briquettes and clean-burning technology, which complies with World Bank environment standards.
"The briquette is composed of ground coal combined with other minerals that can be used for cooking, thus reducing the necessity of chopping down forests for firewood," Uribe said.
Coal briquettes could be used to reduce pollution levels, he said. Particle emissions from briquettes are between 11-14ppm, whereas in the heavily polluted Chilean capital Santiago, the maximum particle emission limit during smog "pre-emergencies" is 50ppm.
The main destination for Colombia's coal at the moment is Europe, and Uribe mentioned moves toward substituting nuclear power in Spain and France with thermo-energy fired by Colombian coal.
"This alternative is being considered very seriously which is of great interest to us, and we may be the country in the best position, logistically, to supply such a demand efficiently and at a good price," he said.
Colombia's National Coal Federation (Fenalcarbon) is also keen to gain ground in the southern cone of South America, in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, where initial contacts are being made.
Colombia exports about 37.2Mt/y of coal, while infrastructure needed to double that figure to 70Mt by 2010 is being developed.
According to data released by the Corporation Invest in Colombia, (Coinvertir), the country is the world's fourth largest producer of thermal coal, with estimated reserves of 6.65Bt and proven reserves of 2.60Bt, of which 90% is of high quality within logistically accessible areas.