Colombia rules out royalty increases on miners


Colombia rules out royalty increases on miners 
TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Colombia will not follow other countries that have either proposed or implemented higher mining royalties amid rising and record commodity prices, Mines and Energy Minister Carlos Rodado Noriega said on Tuesday.

“We have ruled out in the short term any increase in the royalties,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto.

Although there have been some tax increases, the government's policy is not to increase royalties, he said.

The Minister said that Colombia is eager to increase mining investment, especially from Canadian companies.

The country is the fifth-biggest coal exporter, and foreign direct investment in mining represented 41% of the national total in 2009.

However, some international companies have found it difficult to get through the permitting requirements to get approval for exploration or mining operations.

Most recently, Vancouver-based Greystar Mining has been in the headlines over potential difficulties in getting approval for its Angostura gold/silver mine in Colombia.

The company said earlier this week that a public hearing on the project was cut short because of “confrontations” during the event.

Rodado Noriega said on Tuesday that there were problems with the “quality” of the environmental statement submitted by Greystar.

"We are completely sure that it is to not the Canadian standard of quality," Noriega said.

The government actually told Greystar to refile its environmental study in April last year, but the company successfully appealed the decision.

The Angostura project could produce an average of 511 000 oz/y of gold and 2,3-million ounces a year of silver, over 15 years, according to a prefeasibility study.

KIDNAPPINGS

Interest in Colombia's mining sector is rising quickly, especially for gold prospects and projects, after a significant improvement in the security situation in the country.

Although the kidnapping this week of 23 oil contractors employed in a remote jungle region by Canada's Talisman served as a reminder of the risks of operating in the country, the government responded quickly with a rescue mission and Rodado Noriega arrived on Tuesday with the news that all but one of the kidnapped workers had been freed by Colombian forces.

The remaining captive was understood to have escaped, and there were no casualties on either side, he said.

Guerrillas from the FARC group are operating out of the border region with Venezuela. They have been reduced to a small group and don't pose a significant threat, Rodado Noriega said.

Edited by: Liezel Hill
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