Striking Colombian workers have halted operations at the 5-million-tonne-per-year Calenturitas coal mine of Glencore’s Prodeco unit to demand better pay and working conditions, a union said on Thursday.
Strikes and demonstrations in the world’s No. 4 coal exporter are fairly common in the booming mining and energy sectors where laborers routinely ask for better compensation and more stable working conditions.
Ricardo Machado, president of the Sintramienergetica union, said that workers at Calenturitas mine and the port had begun a strike late on Wednesday. A source close to Glencore said that only Calenturitas had been affected and no other operations.
“They’re still at the mine’s facilities, that means, all of Prodeco’s activities are paralyzed right now,” Machado told Reuters by telephone, adding that laborers were asking for a 12 percent pay rise and more job security.
Prodeco is Colombia’s third largest coal exporter behind Drummond and Cerrejon, which is a joint venture by BHP Billiton , Anglo American and Xstrata .
“We are disappointed by the stoppage, which we believe does not comply with applicable local laws. We’re pursuing this through the courts while remaining open to negotiation and dialogue,” Glencore spokesman Simon Buerk said.
Coal prices were unmoved by news of the strike reflecting oversupply and low trading volumes globally.
The walkout would unlikely impact prices unless it drags on for several weeks because Europe is oversupplied and key Asian buyer China has been on the market sidelines.
“We’ve got some beautiful Colombian coal but there’s no interest – I can’t get a yawn,” a broker said.
In mid-2010, laborers at the La Jagua mine of Prodeco went on a five-week strike before signing a two-year deal, with little impact on global prices.
Calenturitas mine produced 5.2 million tonnes in 2010, down from 5.7 million tonnes in 2009 while the company has an expansion plan to bring output to 13.6 million tonnes per year over the next few years, according to a Glencore prospectus.
The mine has a resource base of 400 million tonnes and a life of 20 years, it said.
Colombia has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment, especially in the oil and mining sectors, thanks to improved security from a U.S.-funded military offensive.