Global Energy Monitor
  • Gregor Clark and Ryan Driskell Tate

Colombia's coal mining sector could double its methane emissions, adding up to 216 thousand tonnes per year if the country's proposed mines are developed and operations resume at two Cesar department coal mines, according to a briefing by Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

The briefing examines coal mine methane emissions at major and proposed mines in Colombia, revealing that the up to 32 million tonnes (Mt) of capacity currently announced, could result in nearly 161 thousand tonnes of methane emissions per year, the equivalent to 5 Mt of CO2 – the annual emissions of a new coal-fired power plant.

While the development of any new coal mines or mine expansions is prohibited by the International Energy Agency's Net Zero goals for 2050, and Colombia's new government has indicated its support for a clean energy transition, insufficient corporate transparency remains a significant hurdle for conducting emission assessments and a phaseout of coal.

Key findings:

  • The three largest coal mine projects currently under consideration are: San Juan (with estimated average annual production up to 28 Mtpa), Cañaverales (up to 2.5 Mtpa) and Papayal (up to 1.73 Mtpa) — all owned by Turkish multinational Yildirim, through its Colombian subsidiary Best Coal Company (BCC).
  • If the BCC mines are developed under a lower or minimum proposed capacity scenario, Colombia's annual coal production would increase by 11 Mt, representing an increase of more than 21% compared to 2021 levels and the highest output since 2019.
  • Reactivation of the Prodeco mines in the Cesar department could add another 15 to 20 Mtpa to Colombia’s national output, resulting in annual production figures that might equal or exceed peak levels attained in 2017.

Colombia has shown what it takes to regulate methane in the oil and gas sector, but coal mining continues to dodge scrutiny as a major source of emissions. The prospect of opening new coal mines, without serious abatement plans in place, would undercut the impact of methane mitigation already underway in the energy sector.

Ryan Driskell Tate, Program Director – Coal at Global Energy Monitor

Future coal mine development is out of step with the global trend toward cleaner energy and the just energy transition envisioned by Colombia’s new government. Coal mining’s negative environmental and human rights consequences in Colombia are already well documented, and lack of transparency from mining companies makes it even more difficult to adequately assess the impacts of new mines.

Gregor Clark, Project Manager for the Latin America Energy Portal

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