Colombia’s Top Coal Mine Reaches Accord That May End Strike

A union representing workers at Colombia’s biggest coal mine said it reached a preliminary wage accord that may end a monthlong strike at the complex owned by Xstrata Plc, BHP Billiton Ltd and Anglo American Plc.

Terms will be presented to workers today and tomorrow after the negotiating committee reached an agreement with management at 3 a.m. Bogota time, Luz Maria Tobon, a spokeswoman for the Sintracarbon union, said in a telephone interview. The price of European coal for delivery next year fell to a record.

The Cerrejon strike that began Feb. 7, combined with an export ban at a complex owned by Drummond Co. and a shutdown at the La Francia mine owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., had pushed up thermal coal prices and cost the country an estimated 192,000 metric tons of exports a day. Cerrejon spokesman Juan Carlos Restrepo said by phone today that the strike could be lifted in one or two days if workers accept the proposal.

“This is a process that doesn’t take longer than 24 or 48 hours to get the approval of their workers, and if they sign the agreement the strike will be lifted,” he said.

Cerrejon is losing about 95,000 tons of exports a day, Restrepo said Feb. 28.

Restrepo and Tobon both declined to reveal details of the agreement until workers have seen it. Tobon said work may resume in about a week.

Drummond Restart

Authorities said March 1 that Drummond, Colombia’s second-biggest thermal coal producer, can restart exports after a three-week ban on loading operations. The ban followed a Jan. 12-13 incident in which the Birmingham, Alabama-based company dumped material to prevent a barge from sinking.

Thermal coal for delivery in 2014 to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp dropped as much as 70 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $96.40 a metric ton, the lowest level since the contract began trading in January 2010, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. It traded at $96.55 a ton at 1:45 p.m. London time. Coal for delivery in April dropped 2.6 percent to $87 a ton, its lowest price since the start of trading in January.

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