Former workers have again blocked Colombian coal miner Cerrejon’s rail line, the company said on Thursday, the latest protest to recently affect the beleaguered miner’s operations.
Cerrejon, jointly owned by BHP Group, Anglo American Plc and Glencore Plc, has had repeated disagreements with nearby Wayuu indigenous communities and its largest union, which held a three-month strike last year.
The company in late May declared force majeure and halted operations because of two blockades which prevented it from bringing in supplies of gasoline. One was mounted by former workers upset by recent job cuts and another by members of a nearby indigenous community which has made repeated environmental complaints about Cerrejon.
The company and the government had conversations with ex-workers blocking the company rail line and the Media Luna community, which was barricading a road out of Cerrejon’s port. They made deals late last week to lift blockades and on Saturday Cerrejon said it would gradually restart operations.
But the group of former employees, who left the company in February, has once again blocked the line, Cerrejon said.
“The company asks the authorities for their immediate intervention in the face of the illegal blockades and actions which put in danger the employment stability of more than 9,000 families,” Cerrejon said in a statement.
It said it is willing to hold further talks with workers, but not under the pressure of illegal barricades.
It said the workers let go were given more generous benefits than those required by law, but did not accept them. It said it told them they will not be rehired.
Cerrejon produced 12.4 million tonnes of coal in 2020, down almost 52% from 2019, and its exports fell to their lowest level in the past 18 years amid coronavirus restrictions and falling global demand for coal.
(By Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio)