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Colombia Exports Coal


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Ya know, most just see Countries like Colombia as well as others, as just drug or oil exporters.

 

For the most part I will TRY to post positive on the Latin American Countries, but to be perfectly honest countries like venezuela I don't like.

 

Not just cause the countries like venezuela or chile "just to name a few" are hostile towards the United States, but also towards United State Companies.

 

Just want all of you readers to know exactly where I stand. By the way; enjoy the article :)

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Coal to surpass oil in Colombia exports

 

By ANDREW SELSKY

ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

 

URIBIA, Colombia -- On the northernmost tip of South America, a train chugs across the desert past Indians with painted faces while gun-toting guards squint across the barren landscape, on the lookout for outlaws.

 

This tableau may seem straight out a Western, but it is 21st-century life in a remote corner of Colombia, and it paints the nation's economic future, because the train is carrying coal, on track to replace oil as Colombia's No. 1 export.

 

In a country beset by rebel violence, the coal is moved under super-tight security by rail from Cerrejon, the world's biggest open-pit export coal mine, to Puerto Bolivar, the largest coal terminal in the Americas, where freighters will carry it to Europe and America.

 

Guard towers, many manned by privately hired Wayuu Indians, are perched about every two-thirds of a mile along the most vulnerable stretch of the 93-mile railway. Guards also ride alongside the track on souped-up motorcycles.

 

After nightfall, a train car outfitted with a thermal-imaging device scans for saboteurs.

 

 

 

The vigilance underscores the ore's importance to Colombia's economy. Exports - $1.7 billion in revenues in 2004 - make Colombia the world's fifth-largest coal exporter, after Australia, China, Indonesia and South Africa.

 

Cerrejon, which accounts for up to 60 percent of all coal exports from Colombia, is owned by foreign mining giants BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore International. It expects to pay $320.3 million in taxes and $118 million in royalties for 2005, and also finances schools and health clinics and other works.

 

From Cerrejon's mine, where 24.9 million tons of coal were extracted last year, the railway heads north into the arid Guajira peninsula, which juts into the Caribbean at South America's northern tip. The peninsula has few roads or other infrastructure and is inhabited mostly by the impoverished Wayuu, some of whom blacken their faces with the powder of dried mushrooms as a sunblock.

 

The first 25 miles of the railway cross a verdant landscape. It is the "red zone," where rebel attacks are most likely, said Eliecer Avila, a Cerrejon security official.

 

"The Venezuelan border is just three hours away on horseback, and there is lots of jungle for cover. This is the riskiest area," Avila said, adding that rebels - who run extortion rackets and attack those who don't pay - often use neighboring Venezuela as a sanctuary after carrying out raids. The remaining 68 miles of track is safer because the countryside turns into a desert, with little cover available.

 

While oil pipelines in Colombia have been bombed by rebels hundreds of times since 2000, Cerrejon's coal trains have been attacked just three times in the same period, the last being in September 2003, when the guerrillas derailed 17 wagons with dynamite. No lives have been lost in the attacks.

 

Cerrejon hopes to extract a record 25.7 million tons this year. Its locomotives, pulling up to 120 cars, make a half-dozen trips each day from mine to port, transporting some 80,000 tons every 24 hours.

 

"In six months, we move as much earth as was moved in the construction of the Panama Canal," said Nancy Murgas, a Cerrejon spokeswoman.

 

But unlike the digging of the 50-mile Panama Canal, the removal of coal and the topsoil - which is set aside for rehabilitating the land after extraction is completed - is all done by monster machines. Boarding one of the earth movers, whose shovel can hold 80 tons in a single scoop, is like climbing aboard a ship. The tires alone are twice a man's height.

 

Yet even they look tiny against the gigantic backdrop of Cerrejon. Of seven pits spread over 170,500 acres of coal deposits, one is 2 miles long, 1 1/4 miles across and up to 800 feet deep.

 

Overall, coal is gaining on oil as Colombia's top export, as known oil reserves begin to drain. Colombia, Latin America's fifth-largest oil producer, pumps around 530,000 barrels a day, compared to 830,000 in 1999. Experts say Colombia could become a net importer of oil by next year unless new reserves are discovered.

 

On the other hand, Colombia has estimated reserves of some 8 billion tons of coal, much of it high-grade and used to fire electrical generating plants around the world, that will last into the foreseeable future.

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