BHP’s Cerrejon Mine to Tap Coal Stockpile After Guerrilla Attack

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Cerrejon coal venture in Colombia, which restarted operations this week after a 32-day strike, will tap stockpiles at its port to meet demand after a second guerrilla attack on its installations this year, a company official said.

Guerrillas dynamited a railway line this morning as a company freight train was passing, derailing 17 wagons, Juan Carlos Restrepo, a spokesman, said today. The company will take three to four days to repair the track, he said.

“There’s enough stockpiled coal at the port to make deliveries,” Restrepo said in a telephone interview from Bogota.

Cerrejon, whose owners also include Xstrata Plc and Anglo American Plc, produced 34.6 million tons of coal last year, accounting for about half Colombia’s coal exports of about 75 million tons, according to the company’s website. Cerrejon restarted exports yesterday after workers ended a strike March 11 and is operating normally today, Restrepo said.

“We vehemently condemn this attack on the security of the workers and the Cerrejon operation,” the National Coal Industry Workers Union, known as Sintracarbon, said today in a statement posted on its website. “We demand a cease of all violent acts against them.”

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has waged a guerrilla war for almost half a century, stepped up attacks on energy and mining installations last year, prompting President Juan Manuel Santos to start peace talks with the rebels in October. Guerrillas attacked Cerrejon six times in 2012 and destroyed four company trucks last month.

More Attacks

“These attacks are likely to continue because the military can never be big enough to protect entire pipelines and railways,” Adam Isacson, a Colombia specialist at the Washington Office on Latin America, a research institute, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The guerrillas get to make a political point about foreign investment, and the companies themselves must bear the cost of having their business impeded.”

Thermal coal for 2014 delivery to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp fell 0.7 percent to $94.35 a ton today, the lowest since Jan. 20, 2010.