Energy & Mining in Colombia

Dominic Alves / CC BY 2.0

Newly appointed Mines and Energy Minister Tomás González stressed the important role of the oil and mining sectors in funding government efforts to promote peace and economic development in Colombia at a private meeting hosted by the Dialogue in Bogotá, Colombia.

Senior executives from more than fifty leading Colombian firms, as well industry association leaders, senior political figures and distinguished academics, were in attendance.

Benjamin Ziff, Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Bogotá and the Dialogue’s Michael Shifter and Lisa Viscidi also discussed energy policy and US-Latin America relations.

Colombia has to remain competitive with other major producers such as Mexico to attract needed investment in extractive industries, Gonzales said. Establishing a competitive regulatory framework is particularly important for offshore and unconventional oil and gas resources.

The Minister also highlighted the need for a more efficient environmental licensing process to reduce delays and vowed to improve dialogue with local communities to improve the process for consulta previa, or “prior consultation” with indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups affected by extractive industries. Gonzalez also emphasized the need to devote public resources to combatting Illegal mining, which he said continues to harm the legal mining sector.

Energy poverty and competitiveness of electricity tariffs are also priorities for the current administration. Millions of Colombians lack access to power, while additional gas-fired generation, new regulation and greater energy efficiency will be necessary to bring down high electricity tariffs.

Lisa Viscidi, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Program Director for Energy, Climate and Extractive Industries, noted that many other Latin American countries face similar concerns over competing for investment. Mexico’s hydrocarbons reform is poised to bring investment from international oil companies, while the electricity reform will lead to more competitive prices for industry and manufacturing.

Turning to US-Latin America relations, Benjamin Ziff noted that due to positive developments in Colombia over the last decade, the US’ relationship with the country has advanced well beyond security to focus on issues such as education and trade. And Michael Shifter, the Dialogue’s president, discussed the prospects for relations between Colombia and its neighbors in the hemisphere.

Though Colombia continues to confront challenges, participants were optimistic about the country’s trajectory as the Santos administration heads into its second four-year term. Oil and mining policy are key priorities for the government as it seeks to advance the peace process and sustain strong economic growth in the coming years.

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