BOGOTA May 16 Mining could become Colombia's
economic growth engine with investments of at least $1.5 billion
a year over the next five years if the government guarantees
legal certainty to businesses, the industry's top representative
said on Tuesday.
Major mining companies are urging the government to better
regulate public consultations and votes on mining projects,
arguing that legal uncertainty is the industry's biggest
"If we get the investment conditions we want, as an
association and as an industry, we could again bring in between
$1.5 billion and $1.7 billion a year, for a five-year investment
of $7.5 billion," Santiago Angel, head of the Colombian Mining
Association, told Reuters.
"This is an industry that in its best years brought between
$2.5 billion and $3 billion a year. Unfortunately 2015 and
especially 2016 were very bad years for attracting investment --
we fell to close to zero," he said.
Colombia's biggest mining sectors are in coal and gold.
Angel said that copper is showing enormous potential and could
become a viable new product in the coming years.
AngloGold and EcoOro are big players in
Colombia's gold sector. The biggest coal companies are Drummond
Co, Glencore Plc, Murray Energy's
, Colombia Natural Resources, and Cerrejon, which is
jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American Plc
The economy grew 2 percent in 2016, a slowdown from the
previous year, and the mining sector fell the most with a
contraction of 6.5 percent, according to the government's
Even with improved security following a peace accord with
the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), which ended its part in a
half century guerrilla war that killed more than 220,000,
companies want legal security and clear investment rules.
Companies in the mining sector complain about a lack of
clarity during required meetings with communities over mining
projects, as well as the slow pace of environmental licensing.
There have also been frequent protests that block exploration
operations and production.
"Legal certainty is the main challenge that the industry
faces, it's what provides guarantees to investors and keeps
mining production going forward," said Angel, who described
Colombia as the Latin American nation with the best mining
potential after Peru.
"There are mining companies that have quite advanced
exploration phases, we believe that in the next few years we
could have a working copper project," he said.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Helen Murphy; Editing by