Coal miner Cerrejon to halt operations after blockades cut gasoline supplies

BOGOTA — Colombian coal mine Cerrejon will halt operations because of two blockades that have prevented from it bringing in supplies of gasoline, it said on Sunday, the latest trouble for the major miner.

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.

“Cerrejon is currently suffering two blockades, led by people unconnected to the company, which have impeded the transport of coal and the delivery of water to communities and made the arrival of essential supplies for mining operations impossible,” the company said in a statement.

“The lack of gasoline, caused by these blockades, has meant Cerrejon cannot carry out its mining activities because of force majeure and in consequence, from today, will stop operations.”

The first blockade, which the company says is led by a group of ex-workers who were let go in February, began on May 5 on Cerrejon’s railway line. The workers have rejected dialog with the company, it said.

People from the Media Luna community are responsible for the second blockade on a road out of its port, Cerrejon said.

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Worker and contractor contracts will be suspended under the force majeure, it added.

The announcement comes as other blockades, associated with nearly a month of anti-government protests, cause transportation problems around Colombia.

The barricades have cost the economy more than 10.3 trillion pesos, about $2.75 billion, the government has said.

The blockades have halted the export of 200,000 tonnes of coal and caused 80 billion pesos in losses for that industry, the Mines and Energy Ministry said on Twitter on Saturday.

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. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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