Colombia Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources, energy and environment

Colombia has enormous natural riches, which are only partially exploited. Of those used, oil, natural gas, coal, gold, iron, copper and emeralds are noticed.

The oil sources are largely found in the Andes foothills and in the Amazon jungle to the east. The Llanos basin in central Colombia has the largest oil production area, Rubiales, and the largest reserves of gas.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Colombia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

Oil was about coffee as the most important export commodity in 1989. The sector was liberalized in the 1990s to attract more foreign investment, which led to increased production over a number of years. It culminated around 2014, when the world market price began to fall and the recovery has subsequently declined somewhat.

The well-known oil and gas reserves are limited and are only expected to reach around 2025. President Iván Duque, who entered 2018, wants to develop the oil and gas sector to strengthen the economy and the country’s energy supply. The government has therefore decided to allow and encourage new extraction methods such as fracking. But the decision is contentious and strongly arouses opposition from the affected local communities and the environmental movement.

Most of the natural gas extracted is used for the country’s own needs. Nearly half of the oil is exported, mainly to the US but also to Panama, China and Spain.

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In recent years, the oil and gas industry has been subjected to armed attacks from guerrilla groups as well as criminal gangs.

Colombia has Latin America’s largest known coal assets. Mining mainly occurs in the mining of Cerrejón at the base of the Guajira Peninsula, which is Latin America’s largest coal mine and one of the world’s largest coal mines. Almost all coal mined is sold abroad. Coal is Colombia’s second largest export product and the country is the world’s fifth largest coal exporter. Most of it goes to Europe and South and North America, but exports to China and Japan are growing.

The mining industry has created social as well as legal and environmental problems. Colombia’s mining sector ranges from large corporations, over small-scale operations in artisanal forms without licenses, to armed groups operating illegal mining to finance their existence. According to the UN, only about one-seventh of the gold mined in Colombia is legally mined.

Human rights organizations state that four-fifths of Colombia’s human rights violations occur in regions where mining and extraction of energy commodities occur. Nearly 90 percent of Colombians forced to leave their homes come from these areas.

The large-scale and environmentally harmful exploitation of oil and coal is not least criticized by the indigenous population. In the Chocó region, foreign companies that illegally mined gold have caused enormous environmental degradation. Some of Colombia’s water resources are considered threatened by the mining industry. In Bogotá, air pollution from traffic is a major environmental problem.

Colombia has good conditions for hydropower in its rivers, but only a small part is utilized. Nevertheless, hydropower accounts for more than two-thirds of electricity generation. Just under a fifth comes from natural gas and just under a tenth from coal. Colombia exports some electricity, mainly to Venezuela.

It is estimated that half of the world’s emeralds come from Colombia and the value of these can amount to half a billion dollars annually. But the figures are uncertain, as large quantities are smuggled out of the country.


Energy use per person

712 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)

Electricity consumption per person

1290 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

84 092 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

1.8 tonnes (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

23.6 percent (2015)



Ex-security manager is sentenced in the US

Mauricio Santoyo, who was Chief of Security during Uribe’s presidency, has admitted to a US court that he received bribes from the AUC between 2001 and 2008. He is sentenced to 13 years in prison in the United States. Santoyo has acknowledged both the bribery and drug smuggling, as part of a settlement with the prosecutors, and will pay $ 125,000 in fines for it. The AUC is stamped in the US.

Flying attack against guerrilla camps

At least 20 Farc members are killed in a bomb attack against a camp near the border with Ecuador, in the largest military operation since the peace talks began.


Colombia withdraws support for the ICJ

Colombia announces that the country no longer recognizes the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), following a decision on border demarcation against Colombia (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

Farc announces ceasefire before talks

The guerrilla unilaterally announces a ceasefire before the first round of talks on land reform, a key issue behind the formation of Farc in the 1960s (see Modern History). Delegations for the government and guerrillas are gathered in Cuba’s capital Havana for the talks.

Colombian drug king is arrested in Venezuela

Another leading Colombian drug trafficker is arrested in the neighboring country (see September 2012). Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa is suspected to be the largest supplier of cocaine to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.


Official peace talks with Farc begin

October 17

On October 17, delegations representing the government and Farc respectively arrive in Norway’s capital Oslo, to begin the first official peace talks. The dialogue mainly concerns five issues; an end to the fighting, a land reform, guarantees that political opposition can be exercised, how drug trafficking is handled and what rights the victims of the conflict should have. The talks that are expected to last for months should continue in Cuba after the introduction in Norway.


Colombian drug king is arrested in Venezuela

Daniel Barrera has been one of the most exciting in the world and has been called Pablo Escobar’s successor (see Modern History). It is the third Colombian drug king arrested during the year.

Londoño confirms peace talks

The farce leader confirms the president’s duties (see August 2012) and proposes that a ceasefire be entered into when the talks begin, but Santos rejects it.


Santos confirms peace talks

The president confirms rumors that the government has held preparatory talks with Farc, but stresses that the military efforts against the guerrillas will continue. The peace talks will be the first in ten years.

Leading drug king is arrested

Police seize one of the country’s most influential drug kings, Erikson Vargas, called Sebastián. Vargas leads an underground organization in Medellín and is suspected of cooperating with drug leagues in Mexico.


Uribe forms political movement

Álvaro Uribe forms the Democratic Center (CD), with the aim of washing out a candidate who is running for Santos in the 2014 elections.


Free Trade Agreement with USA

A controversial free trade agreement with the US comes into force. It is met by widespread protests from farmers, trade unionists and students. Authorities are closing the state universities and bus stations in Bogotá to try to stop protesters.


Ten prisoners released

Farc releases six police officers and four soldiers who have been held hostage since the late 1990s. However, the left-wing guerrillas still hold about 400-700 civilians.


Many dead in guerrilla attacks and army attacks

Farc kills eleven soldiers in eastern Arauca region. The government army responds with attacks against guerrillas in Aruca and Meta, when 69 left rebels are killed. The month before, many civilians were killed in attacks on two police stations, attacks that Farc is believed to have been behind.


Santos rejects Farcin’s invitation to dialogue

Farc’s new leader Rodrigo Londoño opens talks with the government on privatization, the liberalization of the economy, democracy in a market economy and military issues. Assessors see the play as a sign that the Farc leader is hard pressed. But President Santos rejects the invitation, saying that Farc must show that the interest in peace is genuine before any deliberations can be held.

Colombia Energy and Environment Facts

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