* Environment ministry under pressure for permit delays
* Slow licensing process major worry for mining, energy
BOGOTA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Colombia’s president named economist Frank Pearl on Monday as the new head of the environment ministry, which has been under pressure for delays in the environmental licensing process.
Colombia’s energy and mining sectors have complained over the slow decision-making process for environmental licenses in the South American country, where production of oil, coal and other minerals has hit records this year.
Pearl, also a former government peace commissioner, became head of the environment and sustainable development ministry.
President Juan Manuel Santos recently split the environment, housing and sustainable development ministry in two. The former head of all three sections is now the housing minister.
“I believe the environment today can feel very well represented and well protected,” Santos said in a statement.
Colombia has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment over the last decade, boosting oil and coal output after U.S. military aid helped it deal crippling blows to leftist guerrillas and cocaine cartels.
The boom has created an unprecedented number of mining permit and environmental requests, straining Colombia’s institutions as foreign investors are flocking in.
Finding a balance between environmental issues and extractive industries when commodity prices are high is one of the main challenges for Latin America’s fourth-largest oil producer. (Reporting by Monica Garcia; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by John O’Callaghan)