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Colombia to overhaul licensing system for mining titles

Colombia is overhauling its system of mining licences, potentially revoking or reassigning thousands of titles to extract coal, gold and other resources and affecting dozens of companies whose shares trade in Canada.

The South American country wants to boost revenues from mineral-rich properties by creating a reliable database and weeding out speculators who keep such land idle in the hope of selling it for a profit.

About 60 of 9,000 titles contribute 80 per cent of the government's royalty fees from mining at the moment, said Mauricio Cardenas, Colombia's Minister of Mines and Energy.

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About 35 companies with mining operations in Colombia are listed in Toronto.

Peter Volk, general counsel of Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold Corp. , which holds more than 100 titles, welcomed the news.

"They do need to get their mining registry system into the 21st century," he said. "From a company's perspective – and I would hope from an investor's perspective – I applaud it."

Mr. Volk, who is reviewing his company's titles one by one, said he has been approached with offers to sell rights to land whose ownership couldn't always be demonstrated. Some of those companies are raising, or trying to raise, money in Canada.

Mr. Cardenas, who is in Toronto for the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

This is his first trip overseas to meet specifically with investors in his country's mining industry since he assumed his post last September.

He aims to attract new capital by convincing convince investors that Colombia's years of violence are over, and the country will award titles in an open and competitive way.

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"We're changing the way we operate in this sector," Mr. Cardenas said in an interview on Sunday in Toronto. "A lot of the companies operating in Colombian mining are listed here. We have to talk to them."

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About the Author
Investment Reporter

Nicolas Johnson has covered global finance, markets and investing since 1998. He joined The Globe and Mail in 2011. He has worked as a reporter and editor with Bloomberg News in Paris and Tokyo, and also worked briefly in emerging-market debt at Société Générale. More

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