* No casualties in attack but four trucks damaged
* Company and striking union condemn assault at mine
* Union says pre-talks on strike still on for Monday
By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA, Feb 24 Unknown assailants blew up four
trucks belonging to Colombia's largest coal exporter, Cerrejon,
on Sunday in the latest attack against the mining sector in the
world's fourth-largest coal exporter.
Cerrejon - a joint venture between Anglo American,
BHP Billiton and Xstrata - said it had suffered
"a terrorist attack" at its Mina Sur mining area in the northern
province of Guajira.
"There were no casualties, but four company trucks were
seriously affected, which were idle as a result of the strike
affecting the company for 17 days," it said in a statement.
The assault comes a day before Cerrejon and workers, who
have been on strike since Feb. 7, plan to restart stalled wage
negotiations to try to end a walkout that costs Colombia $1
million in royalties and a 100,000 tonnes in lost output daily.
The company did not speculate on who might have launched the
attack, which the Sintracarbon labor union was also quick to
"Our union and I personally raise our voice to strongly
reject these deeds, which are also an attack against the
strike," union leader Igor Diaz wrote in a message on Twitter.
He said that talks on Monday to finalize logistical issues
and then re-start substantive wage negotiations would go ahead
in spite of the attack.
"The process continues tomorrow, we reject and oppose these
acts and no one will stop the search for an agreement," he said.
Oil and mining operations have been targets for armed rebels
as well as labor unrest, although security for business has
vastly improved since a U.S.-backed offensive against
anti-government guerrillas was launched in 2002.
Improved security has helped attract billions of dollars in
new investment as explorers push into more areas in search of
minerals and oil. In 2012, Colombia brought in $16 billion in
foreign investment, up from around $2 billion in 2002.
Cerrejon's problems have added to the woes of the Colombian
coal sector, which have included a ban on trains running at
night due to noise pollution in the main coal-producing province
of Cesar and the suspension of coal loading at Drummond, the
other top Colombian exporter.
Analysts said the apparent global abundance of coal and weak
demand in key markets may mean buyers have been cushioned from
big price rises despite multiple disruptions to shipments.