Colombia is one of the world’s largest coal producers. Germany meets around one fifth of its coal needs via imports from Colombia, making it one of the country’s top three suppliers. The Columbian mining industry has come under criticism, however, for poor working conditions and low environmental protection standards. The Georg Agricola University of Applied Sciences (TFH), Bochum/Germany, and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (National University of Columbia or UNAL) are joining forces to tackle these problems and will in future be working side by side to improve mining sustainability, occupational safety, risk management and quality management. The President of TFH Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kretschmann and UNAL’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Ignacio Mantilla Prada signed a cooperation agreement on 26th November 2015 in Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, in the presence of Hannelore Kraft (Prime Minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) and Garrelt Duin (Economics Minister for North Rhine-Westphalia).
As part of the delegation of academics and industry experts, Prof. Kretschmann accompanied members of the North Rhine-Westphalia state government on a week’s business trip travelling through Chile and Colombia. “We are delighted that the state government’s visit to South America is promoting academic collaboration as well as economic cooperation,” said Prof. Kretschmann. “North Rhine-Westphalia has always been an important mining centre in Germany. Our partners in Colombia will definitely be able to benefit from our expertise, especially as regards occupational safety and environmental protection. The steady growth of the Colombian raw materials industry means that cooperating with UNAL presents a great opportunity for our staff and students alike.” The cooperation agreement sets out arrangements for both students and staff to participate in exchanges between the two universities, who also aim to educate and train the next generation of academics through collaborative doctoral programmes. (TFH)