BHP’s Cerrejon Mine Restarts Coal Exports After Strike Ends

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Cerrejon coal venture in Colombia said it restarted exports today after a 32-day strike ended, sending coal to a three-year low.

The mine, Colombia’s largest open-pit coal operation, has yet to operate at installed capacity after employees signed a three-year labor accord March 11 and began returning to work, spokesman Juan Carlos Restrepo said.

“We’re exporting again,” Restrepo said in a telephone interview from Bogota. “We’re not at 100 percent, but it’s a matter of waiting a few more days.”

Cerrejon, whose owners also include Xstrata Plc and Anglo American Plc, produced 34.6 million tons of coal last year, according to its website. Along with Drummond Co., which restarted operations last week after a three-week suspension, it accounted for 80 percent of Colombia’s coal exports of about 75 million tons in 2011, according to the World Coal Association.

The strike cost the mine almost 3 million metric tons in lost output, Cerrejon President Roberto Junguito said yesterday. The mine is operating at 70 percent of capacity and should be close to full capacity when all the mine’s personnel return to work tomorrow, said Igor Diaz, president of the National Coal Industry Workers Union, known as Sintracarbon.

The labor accord, which includes wage increases, productivity bonuses and improved health and housing benefits, gives workers up to 72 hours to return to work.

Thermal coal for 2014 delivery to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp fell 0.8 percent to $95 a ton today.

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