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Colombian Coal Workers Strike at Glencore Mine; Production Halted

07/19/2012 | 10:38am US/Eastern

BOGOTA--Colombian coal workers for the local unit of Glencore International PLC (GLNCY, GLEN.LN) went on strike Thursday, demanding better salaries, health plans and labor contracts, the company and a labor leader confirmed.

Output at the Glencore complex, which produced about one million metric tons of coal in May, has been completely halted as of Thursday morning, Alfredo Tovar, a Sintramienergetica union leader, said by telephone.

"Nothing's being produced, everything is down," he said.

Colombia is the world's fourth-largest coal exporter, and production is dominated by Glencore and other coal powerhouses such as BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU) and Anglo American PLC (AAUKY, AAL.LN).

Mr. Tovar said all the nonmanagement workers have joined the strike, which he said includes some 1,000 direct employees and 3,000 others who are employed as contractors or through other arrangements.

In November, Glencore suffered a week-long strike at its Las Calenturitas coal mine in northern Colombia. The strike, however, didn't have any major impact on the mine's coal output.

While strikes in Colombia can last 60 days, at which point the law requires binding arbitration to take place, the union is willing to sit down to talk with management as soon as it wants, Mr. Tovar said.

A company official confirmed the strike had begun, and said it was preparing to send a statement regarding the matter.

The mines operated by Glencore's local unit, Prodeco, have a total production capacity of 14.5 million metric tons of coal, which the company plans to expand to 20 million metric tons by 2013.

Write to Dan Molinski at dan.molinski@dowjones.com.

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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