BOGOTA, March 4 (Reuters) - Coal production in Colombia, the fifth-largest coal exporter in the world, fell 2% to 82.2 million tonnes in 2019 after output at one of the principle mines declined and operations were interrupted by droughts, the government said Wednesday.
In 2018, the South American country recorded coal production of more than 84.2 million tonnes.
A judicial ruling prevented the extension of mining operations at Cerrejon, a coal mine in the La Guajira province which is jointly owned by BHP Group, Anglo American and Glencore.
"The coal industry has been presented with an important cross roads. In the case of thermal coal, the average price went from $82.50 per tonne in 2018 to $51.4 per tonne in 2019," said Silvana Habib, president of the National Mining Agency.
"Both the effects of climate and restrictions due to judicial rulings had impacts."
Open-pit coal mines are required to reduce production in high temperatures to reduce pollution caused by dust.
As well as the Cerrejon mine, the Colombian coal industry is dominated by Drummond and Prodeco, which is a unit of Glencore.
In its 2019 results, Glencore recorded impairments of $514 million and $435 million related to Prodeco and Cerrejon respectively. Anglo American recorded an impairment on Cerrejon operations of $334 million.
Gold production in Colombia in 2019 hit 36.6 tonnes, up 3% from output of 35.5 tonnes in 2018.
The government predicts a 12% rise in gold production in 2020, due to the start of operations at the Buritica project in Antioquia province.
Nickel production closed at 89.4 million pounds, down 6% on 2018 levels, when nickel output was 94.9 million pounds. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Additional reporting and writing by Oliver Griffin; editing by Nick Macfie)