May 4, 2020 / 5:04 PM / 22 days ago

Colombian miner Cerrejon ramps up operations after virus-led reduction

BOGOTA, May 4 (Reuters) - Colombian coal miner Cerrejon said on Monday it has started ramping up operations following a temporary reduction as part of efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Cerrejon, which is owned equally by BHP Group, Anglo American and Glencore, had reduced its operations along with other mining companies in the Andean country to contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness that has infected more than 7,600 people in Colombia and killed and 340 dead.

“We are aware of the positive impact Cerrejon has on the regional economy and to the country, that is why we have proposed the gradual re-starting of our operations under strict security and control measures,” Juan Consuegra, Cerrejon vice president and contingency team leader, said in a statement.

Cerrejon, which exported 26.3 million tonnes of coal in 2019, in March reduced its operations and established a contingency team to ensure compliance with environmental rules, care for equipment and infrastructure, and make sure export obligations were met.

While operations were reduced 80% of Cerrejon staff had access to vacation time. Later on, people who were not part of the contingency team and could also not work from home received paid leave, the company said.

In recent production reports, Anglo American and Glencore reported that first-quarter output at Cerrejon dropped by around 10% versus the first quarter of 2019.

In its report, Glencore also said production volume levels from its Colombian coal operations - which also includes its Prodeco unit - could be at risk of further reductions due to pressure on European coal pricing.

Cerrejon is an integrated mining and transportation complex in Colombia’s La Guajira province, in the northeastern part of the country, which includes an open-pit mine, a 150-km (93-mile railway line and a Caribbean port.

Although Colombia is in mandatory preventive isolation until May 11, mining activities can continue as they are considered to be an essential activity for the development of the country.

Drummond, another thermal coal producer, re-started its operations last month. (Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta Editing by Paul Simao)

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