What kind of growth and development have we seen in Colombia’s energy sector over the past 5 years? What are your expectations for the next 5 years?

CARDENAS: The last five years have been a period of fascinating growth for the energy sector in Colombia. Our oil production has doubled. This year, our production of coal has increased from roughly 45m tons to nearly 97m tons. We expect these fantastic growth rates to continue throughout the next five years. Presently, our oil production per day is 1m barrels. Looking forward, we hope to end the decade with 1.5m barrels of oil per day.

What is the contribution of the energy and mining sector to GDP in Colombia? How do you anticipate this will evolve over the next 2-5 years?

CARDENAS: Today, the contribution of the energy and mining sector to Colombia’s GDP is roughly 9%. It was nearly 5% a decade ago. We would like to see the entire economy grow at a faster rate, so we try not get caught up in the numbers projecting the growth of the energy and mining sector. We are growing very fast but we would like to see other sectors increase their contribution to Colombia’s GDP as well. We expect the energy and mining sector to grow at double-digit rates over the next few years, which in fact is faster than the rest of the Colombian economy.

How would you describe the state of energy related infrastructure in Colombia? What more needs to be done to better enable the sector?

CARDENAS: Colombia as a whole has many needs in terms of infrastructure, and that’s one of our big challenges. In fact, with the revenues we have from the energy sector, we are providing the funding for infrastructure projects throughout the country. The energy and mining sector is also funding projects for itself. The mining and oil projects consist of building pipelines, roads, railroads, and ports. This sector is providing its own solutions in terms of infrastructure. We do not depend on the national government to solve these problems.

What are the greatest challenges Colombia’s energy sector faces today?

CARDENAS: The energy and mining sector faces two main challenges. The first one has to do with the communities where these projects operate. We need to make sure that the benefits of the energy and mining sector are delivered to these groups of the population. We need to make sure that we improve their standards of living. This commitment lies on both the government as well as the industry. We need to make sure that they invest more heavily on the social dimension so that these sectors of the population enjoy the benefits. The second challenge that the mining and energy sector must deal with is the environmental impact of these projects. We need to insure that we adopt strict standards to limit environmental impact. It is important that we protect Colombia’s biodiversity. Colombia’s biodiversity is something that we are very proud of and we believe that it is something that establishes the country as an outlier in the world. We need to realize that, although energy is our best chance for development now, in a few decades it is going to be bio-technologies that will be pertinent. As a result, we must preserve our biodiversity because bio-technologies will be our next stage of technological development.

What are the key elements that have led to the expansion of Colombia’s energy sector over the past 3 years? 

CARDENAS: Part of the expansion in Colombia is the result of new players coming into our country. Juniors, as they call them. Many of them are actually based in Canada. We have companies like Pacific Rubiales, Petrominerales, and Talisman. These companies are growing very fast mainly because of their operations in Colombia. We are very satisfied with the juniors. We are also making sure that the majors hear the message. We hope that everyone comes because this is open to all investors.

What new initiatives are being taken to promote the growth and development of Colombia’s energy sector?

CARDENAS: This year we are promoting what we call the 2012 Round. The 2012 Round is 109 blocks for exploration and production of hydrocarbons. One third of them are for unconventional hydrocarbons such as shale oil and shale gas. We are very optimistic about the interest on the part of the companies who will eventually come and explore unconventional hydrocarbons in Colombia. At the same time, we are now promoting mining in the same way, through competitive processes. In these rounds we promote blocks for mining companies to make proposals in terms of investment and in terms of production.