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UNECE assists Colombia in managing coal mine methane to save lives and protect the environment

Each year in Colombia the coal mining sector is responsible for more fatalities than all other sectors of the heavy industry combined. Since 2005, there were 1,129 reported emergency situations in the local mines causing 1,332 deaths. If adjusted to also include accidents associated with illegal coal extraction activities, which are quite prevalent in the country, this number would be significantly higher.

Explosions account for over a quarter of the deadly accidents. Their occurrence results from low awareness of methane-related risks among the local mining community, insufficient technical expertise in the field of ventilation, incomplete regulation, and unsatisfactory execution of the existing rules on mining safety.

While primarily driven by the exceptionally high death toll of the mining personnel, the urgency to address the problem of methane emissions from coal mines in Colombia also has an environmental dimension resulting from the country’s voluntarily assumed emission-reduction commitments. To meet these self-imposed targets Colombia needs to approach the issue comprehensively, working to limit the carbon-footprint of various sectors of its economy simultaneously. Capture and use of methane from coal mines is one of the most effective near-term options to minimize the carbon footprint of the mining sector and hence offers the potential to constitute an important component of the Colombian pro-environmental strategy.

At the invitation of the Unit for Mining and Energy Planning of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (UPME) of Colombia, the UNECE Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) in cooperation with the Global Methane Initiative organized a two-day capacity-building workshop on “Best Practices in CMM Capture and Utilization”. The event, held on 24-25 July 2018 in Bogota, was addressed to the local mining community, mine operators and policymakers.

A series of 18 presentations, organized in 6 thematic sections (Calculation of Methane Gas Reserves in Coal Beds; Mine Safety; Ventilation; Drainage and Co-Development of Coal and Gas Resources; Abandoned Mine Methane; CMM/AMM/VAM Project Development), were delivered. Each section was followed by a round of questions and answers allowing for extensive interaction between the local audience and the international experts.

Mr. Ruben Chanci, representing UPME, observed “all attendees, whether from public or private entities, were very satisfied as the event allowed them to expand their knowledge on methane gas in coal mines. Everything we have learnt from the UNECE experts will be of great help in increasing mine safety in Colombia and in reducing methane emissions to the atmosphere.” He also thanked UNECE for organizing the workshop and indicated that “the Ministry of Mines and Energy, as well as the Ministry of the Environment, would like such events to be carried out in Colombia more frequently”.

The Chair of the UNECE Group of Experts Mr. Raymond Pilcher noted “the attendees and international experts discussed ways in which mine safety regulations could be strengthened in order to promote capture and use of methane, which are to the benefit of miners and the local community”. He highlighted the workshop as “a great success that will lead to follow-on discussions and actions. This event reinforces the concrete added value of the work of the Group of Experts on CMM both in the UNECE region and beyond.”

For further information on the workshop, including presentations and documentation, please visit: https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=49369