Drummond Construction Barge Sinking Flags Pollution Concern

George Backwell
Monday, April 14, 2014
Oil spill containment: File photo CCL

A barge carrying construction materials for U.S.-based Drummond Co Inc, Colombia's second biggest coal miner, was shipwrecked at the company's port late last week, the company said on Sunday, causing leakage of some diesel fuel into the sea.

Drummond only recently reopened the port in northern Colombia after the government had shut down operations until the miner completed an upgrade to meet new environmental legislation. It missed the January deadline for finishing work.

RCN Radio said the vessel was carrying 60 gallons (227 liters) of diesel oil. A Drummond statement confirmed the incident and said the crew was rescued but did not mention the amount of fuel that leaked into the sea.

Drummond only recently reopened the port in northern Colombia after the government had shut down operations until the miner completed an upgrade to meet new environmental legislation. It missed the January deadline for finishing work.

RCN Radio said the vessel was carrying 60 gallons (227 liters) of diesel oil. A Drummond statement confirmed the incident and said the crew was rescued but did not mention the amount of fuel that leaked into the sea.

"The motors of the ship that was rescued contained diesel fuel so containment barriers were installed in the area of the accident to confine the diesel that fell into the sea," Drummond said.

A Drummond spokesperson on Sunday said the port was operating normally and the incident had no impact on coal shipments. The cause of the accident is being investigated. She declined to comment further.
Drummond has suffered more than a year of logistics and labor strife, blighting the Andean nation's coal production and causing it to fall 4 percent short of its production target in 2013 when output totaled 85.5 million tonnes.

In December, Drummond was fined $3.6 million for polluting the bay in 2012 when a ship spilled tonnes of coal into the waters of Santa Marta.

The government shut Drummond's port in January after the new environmental law took effect and the company had not completed construction of its legally required conveyor belt system, slashing the country's coal exports by about a third.

The government had banned the use of cranes and barges to load boats, a practise outlawed due to the pollution it caused.

Drummond is working on a $360 million construction of legally compliant infrastructure that pours coal straight into ships' holds from a covered conveyor belt.

The company has cut its Colombia production forecast for 2014 to 25 million to 26 million tonnes, down from a previous forecast of 30 million tonnes.

The shutdown of Drummond's port activity had an impact on Colombia's economy as the company's coal exports represent about 30 percent of total exports of the mineral from the fourth biggest exporter of coal.

(By Helen Murphy; additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; editing by Sandra Maler)
 

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