Colombian guerrilla attacks BHP coal mine

An alleged unit from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, blew up Tuesday heavy equipment at the Colombian coal mine Cerrejon, in the northern province of La Guajira, part owned by BHP Billiton.

According to La Informacion (in Spanish) the damage from the attack to three dump trucks at El Cerrejon was substantial, but no one was injured.

This was the fifth such attack on the mine, considered the world's largest open-pit coal operation, this year.

Most of the attacks on the mining complex have targeted the railway that hauls coal to Puerto Bolivar, an export terminal on the Caribbean coast.

Cerrejon is owned in equal parts by BHP Billiton, London-based Anglo American and Swiss Xstrata Coal.

Colombia is the world's fourth-largest coal exporter and a key supplier of thermal coal for power generation to Europe and parts of Asia.

Once tinted by drug cartels and civil war, Colombia is now one of Latin America’s fastest growing markets and, according to the World Bank, the most secure country in the region in which to do business.

In the past year, investors, mining companies and explorers alike have been focusing on the South American country, but recent incidents that include a major strike, a new minister of mines and debated renewal of BHP’s Cerro Matoso nickel mine concession, are making foreign firms more cautious.

Colombia’s economy, which is Latin America’s fifth largest, has grown four times as rapidly as Canada’s in recent years, with foreign investment quadrupling between 2002 and 2008.

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 Image: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's coat of arms.