EFECienaga, Colombia

U.S.-based coal producer Drummond said it expected its coal exports next year to rise to between 34-35 million tons, up from a projected total of 28 million tons in 2015.

"We expect to have export levels at 35 million tons, with a production level that may be close to that," Drummond's top executive in Colombia, Jose Miguel Linares, told reporters.

He said the company expected to finish 2015 with "exports of around 28 million tons."

That figure would be higher than last year's total of 23 million tons but it also reflects the impact of a nine-month ban on night transport on the Fenoco railway, used to ship coal from mines in the northern province of Cesar to ports on the Caribbean coast.

He said the measure had an "impact that meant a drop in shipments of between 4.5-5 million tons" between February and October, when the ban was imposed due to complaints from residents of the northern town of Bosconia about noise.

The ban was lifted after rail operator Fenoco implemented some noise reduction measures.

Linares told EFE the higher export forecast also was due to successful efforts to expand markets, particularly in Central and South America.

He also added that "we're looking at what could happen in the Asian market once the (expanded) Panama Canal" is up and running next year.