Sunday, December 15, 2019

Become part of our community

captcha 

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) surprisingly announced December 12 that it now expects a stretch of the Medellin-Bolombolo highway buried by a May 28 landslide to reopen before December 31.

Previously, ANI had forecast a March 2020 reopening. But accelerated recovery work at the Sinifaná sector of the "Pacifico 1" highway – previously buried by landslide -- has enabled a much-improved forecast, according to the agency.

“Before the end of 2019, traffic will be restored via the Bolombolo-Amagá highway in the Sinifaná sector,” according to ANI.

“Once the pending pavement, signaling and safety activities are finished, restricted access will be allowed through the Sinifaná sector. The schedules for vehicle transit through this sector will be from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily once this section is reopened, until January 6," when hours-of-operation might be expanded..

“The continuity of the opening of the road is subject to the maintenance of safety conditions, in accordance with the monitoring system and alert protocol,” ANI added.

A new monitoring and alarm system enables 24 hours/day online supervision of the mountainside alongside this section of highway, which enables early warnings and shutdowns in case of potential danger of another landslide, according to the agency.

Mitigation works in the upper part of the mountainside – including canals, filtration systems and trenches – are already 80% complete, according to ANI.

“Progress has been made at a good pace in construction of two of three terraces and containment areas as elements to mitigate material slides,” according to ANI.

Meanwhile, the damaged road “is practically adequate, with installation of a gravel base and expansion of width for two lanes, while installation of asphalt base and the signaling scheme are pending,” all of which boost prospects for expanded-hours operations probably by around January 6, according to ANI.


Medellin – the epicenter of Colombia’s mainly “green” electric power industry – this month hosted the 6th biannual FISE Electric Power Fair with more than 15,000 visitors, 320 exhibitors, US$200 million in new business deals -- and a growing focus on wind/solar power as well as electric vehicles (EVs).

At the Plaza Mayor convention center here, attendees jammed into 150 technical sessions December 4 through 6 on electric power generation, transmission, distribution, emerging technologies, regulatory and legislative innovations -- and eyed the emerging trend of “self-generation” not only at industrial scale but also at homes, shopping centers and small businesses.

More than 60 companies from 19 foreign countries participated in special “international business network” sessions co-organized by FISE and Colombia business-promotion agency ProColombia. In total, more than 1,000 business negotiation meetings took place at FISE, according to the organizers.

Medellin is the headquarters of most of Colombia’s electricity giants including ISA (the national power transmission operator and energy-trading center), Isagen (power generation), Celsia (power generation and transmission), EPM (the nation’s biggest power company), CIDET (industry research center) and many local and international engineering, technical and supply organizations.

FISE this year also dedicated a portion of trade-show floor space to electric vehicles (cars, motorcycles and bikes), EV charging technologies, solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, smart-meters and exhibitions touting distributed-energy schemes.

While China, Europe and the USA are taking the global lead in EV sales and recharging networks, Colombia is just starting to see this market take hold, with 3,167 EVs sold through July 2019, according to FISE.

Given Medellin’s air-pollution problems – overwhelmingly caused by gasoline, diesel and natural-gas-fueled cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles – it’s likely that Medellin will continue to be Colombia’s national leader in the move to EVs, according to several expert presentations here.

For example: Medellin this year began deploying more than 70 “Metroplus” zero-emissions electric transit buses, which complement the city’s vast, electric-powered “Metro” railway system, a growing network of all-electric “Metrocable” aerial trams, and electric-powered road trams, which combined carry 1.5 million passengers daily.

In this respect alone, Medellin is light-years ahead of all other Colombian cities including Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Armenia, Manizales and elsewhere.

What’s more, EPM just inked a deal with U.S.-based global wind/solar-power developer Invenergy to build and operate at least 400 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar power plants in Colombia by 2025 (see Medellin Herald November 27, 2019), with investments likely hitting US$500 million to US$600 million.

EPM is Colombia’s first (and only) pioneer in wind power generation through its 19.5-MW “Jepírachi” wind farm –built in 2004 -- in the La Guajira desert region, which has some of the world’s strongest and most-reliable wind conditions (averaging 9 meters per second, double the national average), experts noted here.

La Guajira also has Colombia’s highest solar insolation average -- at six kilowatts per square meter, 66% higher than the national average, and much higher than the world average.

Which explains why La Guajira is the target of big new wind/solar power projects by major developers-- including EPM and Celsia -- as Colombia’s Energy Ministry vice-minister Diego Mesa outlined in a keynote presentation here.

Special tax exemptions -- and Colombia’s new regulatory mandate requiring energy generators/distributors to incorporate 8% to 10% of electric power from “unconventional” renewable power sources (mainly wind and solar) – explains why these “green” sources will rise to 1.5-gigawatts capacity by 2022, up from only 50 MW today, Mesa showed.

That represents a COP$7.5 trillion (US$2.2 billion) investment in new wind/solar capacity here in Colombia, he added.

While Colombia has a relatively robust 97% of homes, businesses and industries connected to electric power, some remote areas still lack electricity, Mesa noted. Which is why the current national government aims to work with private companies to hook-up power for 500,000 more people by 2022. That’s one-quarter of the 2 million rural, remote Colombians still lacking power.

Meanwhile, the expected 2022 entry-into-operations of EPM’s 2.4-gigawatt, US$5 billion “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant will help EPM meet its 2025 deadline for “carbon neutrality,” as EPM markets director Jose Enrique Salazar pointed out in a separate presentation here.

Nationally, Colombia aims to become “carbon neutral” in all of its industrial, commercial and personal activities by 2050 – with the mainly hydroelectric power industry running way ahead of all other sectors, and soon to be even "greener" with the upcoming wind/solar power plants.

By 2030, Colombia aims to have 3.3 gigawatts of wind-power installed, along with 2.57 GW of hydropower, 705 MW of solar, 650 MW of natural-gas-fired power, 187 MW of oil-based power, 889 MW of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fired power, 270 MW of LP-gas power and 250-MW of “small-scale” power, Salazar explained -- adding that LNG-fired power will gradually replace what remains of the relatively "dirty" oil-fired power.

While carbon dioxide (CO2) “global warming” emissions aren’t yet taxed globally, Colombia already has a COP$16,422 (US$5) per-ton CO2 tax -- and government officials are studying the possibility of creating a local emissions trading scheme (ETS), he added.

The new wind-power farms planned by EPM, Celsia and others will generate renewable energy credits (RECs) – tradable in world markets -- as well as emissions-reduction certificates valuable for offsetting other, less-green operations in Colombia, he showed. EPM was the first company in Colombia to sell RECs globally, he explained.

The worst CO2 emitting sector in Colombia is transport vehicles. So, conversion of more of the car/truck/motorcycle/bus fleet to electric power (tapping “green” electricity generation) would help Colombia more rapidly achieve its “carbon neutrality” goals, Salazar added.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced December 4 that insurer Mapfre has issued its first payment – totaling US$150 million – for damages to the US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia.

The payment “corresponds to the figure recommended by the [insurance] adjuster according to the expenses and investments made by EPM in the recovery of the project,” according to the company.

“This first prepayment is for material damage to civil works. The company continues in the process of quantification of the damages, the replacement of equipment and the repairs of the project as it progresses in its diagnosis, design and contracting, which is permanently informed within the adjustment process.”

The Mapfre policy covers up-to-US$2.55 billion for material damage to infrastructure and equipment, plus up-to US$628 million for lost power sales due to an expected three-year delay into operation (end-2021 instead of the originally planned end-2018).


Medellin-based textile giant Coltejer revealed in a November 30 filing with Colombia’s Superfinanciera corporate oversight agency that it inked a US$65 million debt restructuring deal with Grupo MCM Colombia.

The new debt deal carries a 10% annual interest rate and runs through December 31, 2021, according to the filing.

Coltejer and fellow Colombian textile makers have been ravaged by cheap Chinese textile and clothing imports in recent years, causing financial losses and sparking debt-restructuring deals.

The company posted a COP$9.9 billion (US$2.8 million) net loss for third quarter (3Q) 2019, an improvement over the COP$19 billion (US$5.67 million) net loss for 3Q 2018.

For the first nine months (January through September) of 2019, Coltejer accumulated a COP$35 billion (US$9.98 million) net loss, worse than the COP$32.7 billion (US$9.3 million) net loss for the first nine months of 2018.


Toronto-based Continental Gold – developer of the giant Buriticá, Antioquia gold mine due for start-up in 2020 – announced December 2 that China-based Zijin Mining Group inked a C$1.4 billion/US$1 billion deal to buy 100% of Continental’s stock.

“The offer price represents a premium of 29% over Continental’s 20-day volume-weighted average price at November 29, 2019 on the Toronto Stock Exchange,” according to Continental.

Newmont Goldcorp and directors and officers of Continental collectively holding 21.5% of the outstanding Continental common shares also voted to support the Zijin buyout.

Fujian, China-based Zijin -- formed in 1993 -- specializes in gold, copper, zinc and other mineral resource exploration and development through investments in China and nine countries. Listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, as of November 29, 2019 Zijin had a market capitalization of approximately US$12.13 billion, according to the company.

Commenting on the deal, Continental CEO Ari Sussman said: “The all-cash offer at a significant premium to market is an excellent outcome for our shareholders and is a testament to the extraordinary effort of the Continental team and its stakeholders in pioneering a new and modern gold industry in Colombia.

“With [gold] production on the horizon in 2020, the timing is right for Continental to sell to a more experienced mine operator and therefore Continental’s board of directors recommends that shareholders vote in favor of the transaction.”

Zijin chairman Chen Jinghe added: “Continental’s 100%-owned Buriticá project in Antioquia, Colombia is one of the largest and highest-grade gold projects in the world and represents a highly complementary addition to Zijin’s international asset portfolio.

“The Buriticá project is expected to produce approximately 250,000 ounces of gold per annum on average over a 14-year mine life at life-of-mine all-in sustaining cost of ~US$600 per ounce. We believe the sizeable, high-grade mineral resource of 16.02 metric tonne [Mt] at an average gold grade of 10.32 g/t [grams per tonne] (being a measured resource of 1.40 Mt with a gold grade of 13.70 g/t and an indicated resource of 14.62 Mt with a gold grade of 10.00 g/t) presents excellent opportunities to expand production and extend mine life.

“Continental has successfully advanced and substantially de-risked the Buriticá project with commercial production now clearly in sight and first gold pour expected in the first half of 2020. Continental also holds a sizeable and highly prospective land package in Colombia that, combined with the Buriticá project, provides Zijin with the leading position in an emerging world-class gold producing region.

“Zijin is conscious of the demonstrated responsibility of Continental’s operation towards the well-being of the local communities and the responsible management of environmental aspects of its operation. Zijin will practice in all its operations the same commitment of Continental towards transparency and ethics and will continue to operate in a highly responsible manner in Buriticá, Antioquia and Colombia more broadly,” Jinghe concluded.


South Africa-based global mining giant AngloGold Ashanti on November 28 unveiled more details of its proposed "Quebradona" copper-gold mining project at Jerico, Antioquia -- including a novel "Biodynamic" nature park that would restore and improve the entire mining area, as part of its just-filed environmental impact assessment (EIA).

AngloGold first unveiled the scheme at the Colombia Gold Symposium (CGS) November 12 here in Medellin, where environmentally and socially responsible mining took front-and-center stage -- outshining even the usual presentations on geology, politics and legalities.

Why this scheme is so important: If the new, socially/environmentally responsible miners succeed in convincing a wider public, then Antioquia and Colombia could look forward to billions of dollars of new investments, big jumps in tax-and-royalty revenues, new jobs and business opportunities, infrastructure improvements, educational advancements, government fiscal solvency -- and even (amazingly) environmental progress.

The "Quebradona" project would become Colombia’s biggest copper-and-gold mine at pastoral Jerico, Antioquia – while actually improving the local environment via post-mining construction of a remarkable “Biodynamic” nature park.

The repercussions could be seen as almost biblical, as AngloGold potentially could become something like a 21st-century version of “Joshua” at the battle of Jerico -- where anti-mining walls could come tumbling down.

According to the company, "after a rigorous process that included more than 14 years of studies of the subsoil and on the social, economic and environmental characteristics of Jericho, Antioquia, AngloGold Ashanti began the process of filing the EIA with the environmental authorities of the departmental and national governments for the Quebradona copper mining project, with which the route to obtain the environmental license for the project begins.

"To construct the study, the company carried out exhaustive analysis and projections by 27 expert consultants in geology, hydrology, ecology, among other specialties. Also, between November 2018 and September 2019, AngloGold heard the concerns of more than 2,600 inhabitants of Jericho through 150 meetings, in order to raise solutions in the same document."

“The exhaustive analysis and dialogue with the community, together with the advanced technology that we plan to use in the project, allow us to have the certainty that the EIA not only integrates the components required by the authorities to ensure compliance with the technical specifications and social and environmental obligations of the project, but reflects high international standards of sustainable mining to ensure that it meets the purpose of converting the mineral wealth of the territory into social, economic and environmental progress,” added Felipe Márquez Robledo, president of AngloGold Ashanti Colombia.

In response to public concerns, AngloGold Ashanti integrated into the EIA a "gradual regeneration plan of 2,550 hectares of tropical dry forest and high mountain forest of Jericho," according to the company.

"The investment includes improving the connectivity of fauna and flora in the ecological corridor between the Cauca river, the escarpment area, the Piedras river, the Quebradona ravine basin, the integrated management district (Distrito de Manejo Integrado, DMI) of the Cuchilla-Jardín-Tamesis region, and the La Guamo ravine basin, in such a way that wildlife species recover mobility between ecosystems and increase native plant cover that will generate food and cover that can be used by birds in the region.

"The EIA also ratifies AngloGold Ashanti's commitment not to use the water that supplies the Jerico municipality. In the construction and operation [of the mining project], the company will use less than 1% of the [nearby] Cauca River water -- and recirculation [of that Cauca water] will be 80% in the process circuit," according to the company.

Worried environmentalists, some local farmers and some townspeople in Jerico have been fighting the proposed “Quebradona” mine for years, fearing potential water, air and noise pollution, ugly land subsidence and possible increases in local crime and prostitution. In addition, the politically powerful, Medellin-based "Comfama" social-benefits organization has expressed concerns that the new mine might cause undue pollution or other harm to its proposed "Ecoparque Turístico Los Farallones de La Pintada" ecopark nearby.

But the Colombian Constitutional Court recently ruled that local governments (including Jerico) can’t by themselves ban mining – although the Court also said that the national government ought to consult with local governments before issuing mining licenses and environmental permits. Colombia’s Congress is supposed to enact a new law defining this consultative scheme.

Meanwhile, two recent Antioquia court rulings have nullified prior Jerico ordinances that would have prohibited mining.

Just as significant, the newly elected Mayor of Jerico -- David Alonso Toro Cadavid – publicly announced that if the national government ultimately approves “Quebradona” licenses, then the local government will do everything it can to ensure an environmentally and socially responsible project.

AngloGold’s upcoming license application to Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (ANLA, the national environmental licensing agency) is expected to be filed within weeks, according to the company.

Prior to that filing, AngloGold’s “Quebradona” mining project manager Ingrid Suarez and AngloGold Colombia corporate affairs manager Juan Camilio Quintero unveiled to CGS 2019 a startling, English-language animated film showing how the mine would be built, operated, safely closed and then repurposed into an environmentally friendly, 2,548-hectares-wide biopark – without polluting water, land or air, or causing any disastrous surface subsidence.

Rather than just generating profits for AngloGold, the “Quebradona” project aims to generate “social wealth for Jerico, Antioquia and Colombia,” along with “environmental regeneration,” Quintero stated here.

Bonus: The company will put US$2.5 million/year into “Fundacion ProJerico” for social development schemes.

The project design includes avoidance of noise or air pollution -- partly by employing underground processing of extracted rock -- and putting tailings adjacent to an existing, non-native pine-tree plantation – all of which eventually will be replanted with native species and reconnected to biological corridors that previously have been ruined by local deforestation.

The project entails four years of construction, 24 years of productive mining, 10 years of closure work and construction of the “Biodynamic” park, which will include bird-watching towers, an educational laboratory to promote conservation and native species, solar and wind turbines for zero-emissions electric power, and restoration of tropical dry forest.

The “Quebradona” project is located about three kilometers from the Puente Iglesias bridge over the Cauca river, from which 0.25 cubic meters per second of water will be withdrawn for the mine processing works, according to Suarez.

Sediment ponds from mine extractions and processing will feature effluent treatments to ensure that water returning to the Cauca river will meet stringent environmental limits, according to the company.

Tailings will include filtration systems to ensure that any possible water migration to nearby streams wouldn’t be acidic, she said. Plugging of ventilation shafts will avoid water filtration through the mine post-closing. Other systems will be employed to minimize noise, dust and light pollution during the term of mine operations.


Medellin utilities giant EPM on November 29 relights 27 million LED bulbs for an annual Christmas-season spectacle in several city parks and neighborhoods, as well as light-show designs alongside Rio Medellin -- absent in recent years due to “Parques del Rio” construction.

The spectacle can be viewed daily from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. midnight, November 29 to January 6, 2020, according to EPM.  Galleries of photos showing light-show designs from multiple sites are available here: http://fotosgrupoepm.com/thumbnails.php?album=2302  and here: http://fotosgrupoepm.com/thumbnails.php?album=2281 .

Various light shows are installed in Parque Norte, Parques del Río, Avenida La Playa, Carrera 53, the Ayacucho Tram, the Bolívar Promenade, Carrera 70, Las Palmas avenue and more than a dozen outlying neighborhoods and towns.

Towns in Antioquia with EPM-organized light shows include Caracolí, Santo Domingo, Carolina del Príncipe, Dabeiba, Cocorná, Concordia, El Carmen de Atrato (Chocó), Girardota, Ituango, Tarazá, Caucasia, Cáceres, Nechí and Valdivia, according to EPM.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Colombia on November 28 issued an update on a joint USAID-Antioquia governmental program that is restoring 1,781 hectares of lands wrecked by criminal and illegal mining.

To date, the US$4 million project has planted 2 million trees on deforested lands and established 12,000 beehives for honey production in the same areas.

The “Legal Gold” project is benefiting the Antioquian municipalities of Caucasia, Cáceres, El Bagre and Zaragoza, supported by the departmental government of Antioquia, local mayors and private companies including Medellin-based, socially responsible gold miner Mineros SA.

“It is estimated that the illegal exploitation of gold in Bajo Cauca Antioqueño has caused the degradation of 32,000 hectares of land where it is not feasible to develop [conventional] economic activities that benefit the communities, which means that, in addition to the environmental liability, the lands have been become social liabilities,” according to USAID.

“In spite of this panorama, the union of efforts and inter-institutional resources is returning the life to about 8% of the total degraded area of the Lower Cauca Antioqueño through Acacia mangium plantations.

“This forest species, in addition to adapting to difficult soil conditions, enjoys accelerated growth, fixes nitrogen in the soil and produces abundant organic matter and floral and extra-floral nectar that serve as food for honey bees.

“After three years of the establishment of the projects, which linked families in the area of influence, the degraded, dusty and rocky soils [supported] plantation regrowth, and fauna returned to these territories."

The related beekeeping project -- which benefits 350 local families -- "is considered to be the largest that has been established in Colombia," USAID added.

“In these apiaries, 91 tons of honey have been harvested and an estimated production of 380 tons per year is estimated when the hives are at their maximum production peak.

“The recovery of soils degraded by illegal mining is undoubtedly replicable in other regions of the country and the world. This project improves the environmental conditions of the areas, generates rural employment and contributes to the reduction of poverty rates and improvement of the quality of life of the communities,” USAID added.


Medellin-based multinational electric power producer EPM announced November 27 an alliance with U.S.-based, global renewable-power developer Invenergy for at least 400 megawatts of solar- and wind-power generation capacity in Colombia.

The alliance will “invest, develop, build, operate and maintain unconventional renewable energy projects in Colombia, specifically with solar and wind technology,” according to a joint announcement from the new partners.

Under the deal, Invenergy will obtain financing with local and international banks, negotiate capacity in the purchase of equipment, contract with the project builders and “use its ability to transform projects into operational assets quickly,” according to EPM.

Thereafter, “EPM will have the option to purchase the [renewable energy] projects built within the framework of the alliance and will market 100% of the electric energy and emission reduction credits of the solar and wind plants,” according to the company.

EPM pioneered wind-power generation in Colombia with its “Jepírachi” project in Colombia’s Guajira region since 2004. More recently, EPM entered solar generation and “intends to continue contributing to the development of these technologies in the country,” according to the company.

For its part, Invenergy has developed more than 24,000 megawatts of capacity through 146 wind- and solar-power projects in the United States, Latin America, Japan and Europe. Among its projects: 96 wind farms with 14,914 megawatts capacity; 30 solar-power farms totaling 3,351 megawatts capacity; and 13 energy-storage units with 260 megawatts capacity, according to Invenergy.

At a press conference announcing the deal, Colombia Energy Minister María Fernanda Suárez stated that “alliances such as the one signed by EPM and Invenergy not only demonstrate the potential of renewable energies in Colombia, but also represent new opportunities for investment and employment for the benefit of the country and regions.”

For his part, Invenergy general manager Michael Polsky added that “our alliance with EPM represents a milestone for Invenergy as we enter the Colombian market and expand our presence in Latin America.”

According to the Energy Ministry, over the last 15 months Colombia's power-capacity auctions for incorporating future sources of renewable energy into its electricity matrix will boost capacity from less than 50 megawatts (what the city of Ibagué needs) currently to more than 2,200 megawatts of capacity by the year 2022 -- equivalent to the total power demand of Medellín, Cali, Cartagena and Bucaramanga combined.


Ireland-based global high-technology consultant Accenture reveals on November 29, 2019, the debut of Colombia’s first tech-demonstration “Nano Lab” -- at Medellin’s “Ruta N” technology incubation center.

“This space will immerse local customers in the latest emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, extended reality, quantum computing, robotics, cybersecurity, blockchain, among others, to help them understand how these innovations influence their future business operations,” according to Accenture.

“For example, an experience of connected mines shows how augmented reality allows users to visualize a complete mining operation with digital copies of physical assets, such as trucks and drills, running an analysis to provide data on the productivity of individual machines.

“A demonstration of the coffee supply chain shows how blockchain and smart contract technologies can be used to organize and provide transparency to the coffee value chain, recording how the beans change hands, are packaged, repackaged and how they are ground or are served,” the company added.

According to Accenture Colombia president Marco Ribas, “the Nano Lab of Accenture in Medellín offers a new way to bring innovation experiences to our customers in Colombia, allowing them to access the best innovations of Accenture Labs R&D teams worldwide.”

The Accenture global network includes an “ecosystem of allies that includes clients, startups, academic institutions and the public sector, which will join a global network of more than 50 laboratories and Nano Labs of Accenture,” according to the company.

The scheme includes artificial intelligence (AI) “process optimization and influence on strategic decision making” as well as “extended reality (XR) immersive technologies that create completely new ways for people to experience and connect with the world around them,” according to the company.

Other technologies arising in the network include “next-generation cybersecurity services to build resilience from the inside out” as well as "Internet of Things" (IoT) technologies that employ advanced sensors, robotics and machine learning, according to the company.


Page 1 of 44

About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

Contact US

logo def
Medellin Herald: Find news, information, reviews and opinion on business, events, conferences, congresses, education, real estate, investing, retiring and more.
  • COL (4) 386 06 27
  • USA (1) 305 517 76 35
  •  www.medellinherald.com 
  •  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Medellín Photo Galery

Medellin, contrasting colors and styles by Gabriel Buitrago

MPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGMPGnav