Traces of a potential coal spill surfaced off Colombia’s Carribean coast Tuesday, just days after the U.S.-based coal firm, Drummond Ltd, reportedly suspended its Colombian operations, reported the El Espectador newspaper.

Authorities were alerted to loose coal debris in the waters near Drummond’s private Caribbean port, but in statements made to the Colombian press Wednesday, the company denied responsibility for the apparent spill.

The U.S. multinational was fined $3.5 million in December of last year for dumping close to 2,000 tons of coal in the Bay of Santa Marta.

MORE: Colombia fines Drummond for $3.5M over Caribbean coal dump

The Colombian Environmental Ministry had previously banned the practice of crane-and-barge loading that led to the spill, which took place in January of 2012, and Drummond was given until January 1st of this year to bring its port operations up to speed with requirements.

MORE: Santos orders minister to assure Drummond respects environmental regulations

After an inspection by Environmental Minister Luz Helena Sarmiento determined that Drummond had failed to comply with the deadline, the company’s shipping license was suspended, pending upgrades on its delivery mechanism.

Drummond was allowed a five-day grace period to complete the transfer of all remaining coal from its barges to its ships, with an additional $160,000 fine assessed for each day of operation.

Colombian authorities have yet to indicate what actions will be taken in regard to the latest incident.

Drummond, meanwhile, has publicly denied responsibility, claiming that the spill “could not be the product of their activities,” which halted on January 13, one day before the spill was noticed, in accordance with the company’s agreement with environmental authorities.

“Once the spill was perceived by company personnel,” said the company, in a statement to Colombian media, “Drummond Ltd. gave immediate notice to the environmental authorities to advance a relevant investigation.”

According to the El Espectador newspaper, Drummond is currently extending its dock 1.5 miles into open water, a $900 million expansion that will allow the company to meet the government’s ‘direct loading’ guidelines and raise the company’s export potential from 23 million tons to 40 million annually.

With vast reserve concessions in the state of Cesar, Drummond is currently the second-largest exporter of coal in Colombia, the fourth-largest exporter of coal in the world.


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