Coal imports from Colombia rise as Germany bolsters supply substitutes for Russia

Colombia has become an important supplier of hard coal to Germany, substituting for Russia, the government has said in an answer to a parliamentary inquiry by the Left Party. Between January and May, the South American country’s share in imports rose to 15.6 percent, making it one of the most important suppliers together with the U.S. and South Africa. In total, Germany imported some 2.6 million tonnes of coal from Colombia in the first five months of 2023. Already in 2022, imports had tripled compared to the previous year, reaching around 5.7 million tonnes. Imports from Russia previously accounted for about half of hard coal supplies to the country but were abruptly ended due to sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Left Party criticised imports from Colombia on grounds of allegations against operators of the El Cerrejon mine. This mine that is key to the country’s hard coal exports and is owned by Swiss-based Glencore has been accused of severe environmental damage and human rights violations, said the Left Party.

Amid the war in Ukraine, Germany re-started some of its old coal-fired power plants to maintain supply security after the loss of Russian fossil fuel imports, particularly gas. The country is still heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels, and ceased mining its own hard coal in 2018. Offically, the country aims to exit coal by 2038 at the latest, although the current government has said it aims to already do so by 2030.