Colombia’s El Cerrejón owned by BHP, Glencore and Anglo American will switch focus from Europe to Asia, in a move that would put it head to head with Australian coal exporters. El Cerrejón President Guillermo Fonseca urged the Colombian government to consider cutting its tax take to make Cerrejón more competitive against Australian miners, who enjoy a shorter and cheaper route to Asia.

“Europe (demand for coal) is declining and declining much faster than we expected, Asia is still growing and definitely that is where the market is going to be for the medium to long term,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “We are in conversations with the Colombian government around what we can do in order to capture the opportunities in the Asian market. In the short term, it probably has to do with the government take. It would be in the interest of the government that production of coal in Colombia does not fall.”

He suggested a different tax and royalty program for production going to the Pacific.

He said he believed Asian markets were likely to still be consuming coal in 2050.

“I believe the transition to renewables and cleaner fuels is going to take a while,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

El Cerrejón has had a tough couple of years, with sliding demand from Europe coinciding with court rulings in Colombia that blocked the company from mining what would have been the natural extension of its coal resource.

Fonseca said those rulings and “judicial activism” combined with the structural change in coal demand had forced El Cerrejón to reduce its export guidance for the next five years.