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Colombia Suspends Drummond’s Coal Ship-Loading License

Colombia, South America’s largest supplier of coal, suspended Drummond Co.’s loading license at the port of Santa Marta after the company spilled coal in the Caribbean last month.

Environmental licensing agency ANLA imposed the “preventive measure” against Drummond’s Colombian unit after the Jan. 13 spill, director Luz Helena Sarmiento said. Drummond barge workers dumped about 870 metric tons into the water to avoid sinking in heavy seas, according to the agency’s ruling.

The suspension will last “until they update their contingency plan,” Sarmiento said today in a telephone interview from Santa Marta.

The move comes as workers at another Colombian coal producer, the Cerrejon mine owned by BHP Billiton Plc, Xstrata Plc and Anglo American Plc, plan to strike this month. Drummond didn’t immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

“International marine protocols emphasize saving human lives first,” the company said in a Jan. 31 statement. Workers ’’proceeded to extract from the barge water that had mixed with coal,’’ Drummond said.

The Birmingham, Alabama-based company has coal reserves for more than two billion tons, of which about 90 percent is in Colombia. Drummond shipped about 29 million tons of coal in 2011, according to the company’s website.

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