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Strikes, guerrilla attacks take their toll in Colombia’s coal output, down 11%

Colombia’s coal production dropped more than 11% in the first nine months of 2013 to 60 million tonnes, mainly due to several strikes affecting its main coal companies as well as guerrilla attacks, said Monday the National Mining Agency.

The nation’s coal industry was severely affected this year by two major strikes, said the organization. The first hit Colombia’s No. 1 coal miner, Cerrejón, in February, while its US-based rival Drummond faced nearly two months of labour action over wages, which ended only after the Colombian Ministry of Labour’s intervention.

Output from small and medium producers tumbled 3% to 4.9 million tonnes during the period, compared to the 5.1 million tonnes produced in the first nine months of 2012.

The country’s estimated reserves are predicted to last for at least another century. However, the sector faces major uncertainties that have left millions in losses and jeopardized the 97 million tons of coal forecasted for this year’s production.

With almost 90 million tonnes of coal generated in 2012, Colombia is the world’s fourth largest exporter and South America’s No. 1 coal producer, according to data from the World Coal Association.