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UPDATE 1-Colombia's Cerrejon coal railway bombed; exports unaffected

Luis Jaime Acosta
Wednesday, 23 Oct 2013 | 1:14 PM ET

BOGOTA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - A stretch of the railway belonging to Colombia's biggest coal producer, Cerrejon, was bombed late on Tuesday, the second such attack in 10 days but one that would not have any immediate impact on exports, the company said in a statement.

Military sources said this attack, like the previous one, was the work of the leftist FARC rebels. The guerrillas have stepped up attacks on coal and oil infrastructure in the last few weeks, also bombing the country's No. 2 oil pipeline.

No deaths or injuries were caused by the latest attack, which took the railway out of service just after it returned to use following the repair of damage caused by a similar attack on Oct. 13.

"An explosive charge was detonated at kilometer 15 causing the derailing of seven of 123 wagons. This is the second terrorist attack in the last 10 days affecting the train," Cerrejon said, without blaming it on any specific group.

The railway is owned and used exclusively by Cerrejon, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc, BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata Plc. In 2012 it carried 32.7 million tonnes of coal from its mine in La Guajira province to its own port, Puerto Bolivar.

Coal for January delivery to Europe (ARA), which typically originates in Colombia, Russia or the United States, was changing hands up $0.50 on Wednesday at $87.00

The latest explosion was an added setback to Cerrejon this year after a month-long strike by workers in February, but such attacks tend to be frequent and something mining and energy companies have had to contend with as part of doing business.

Cerrejon's property was subject to seven attacks in 2012.

The country's No. 2 oil pipeline, the Cano Limon-Covenas which runs through a hotbed of guerrilla activity in the northeast of the Andean nation, also remains shut after an initial bombing on Oct. 7 that was followed by several more.

The FARC and their smaller counterpart, the ELN, regularly attack infrastructure in the energy sector in protest at the presence of foreign companies whose activities they say do not sufficiently benefit the Colombian population.

Though attacks continue, security for businesses has vastly improved since a U.S.-backed offensive against anti-government guerrillas and drug gangs was launched in 2002, slashing the FARC's ranks to about 8,000 and the ELN's to around 3,000.