By: Reuters

BOGOTA – Colombia has again extended a ban on new requests for mining permits until August, when a new mining agency should start operations in the mineral-rich country, the government said.

The world’s No 4 coal exporter has been hit by a series of mine explosions and accidents that has killed hundreds in the past few years and has also struggled to keep up with a flood of requests for mining permits, which prompted the government to create a new regulatory agency.

In a statement dated Wednesday the Mines and Energy Ministry said the ban is timed to end in three months, when the National Mining Agency should begin operations.

The ban has been extended several times in the past year. The statement said that authorities need more time to determine whether some areas in the Amazon region are safe enough to be opened to mining.

It also said the new mining agency needs more time to carry out the procedures that would allow it to grant mining permits once it starts operations.

Colombia has seen a surge in oil and mining investment thanks to a decade-long US-backed crackdown against leftist rebels and illegal armed groups. A flood of new players has emerged to profit from government policies aimed at luring foreign investors to the count.