* Cerrejon was last attacked in late February
* The company, workers signed wage deal on Monday
* No group blamed for bombing of railway
By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA, March 14 Unknown assailants bombed the
rail line of Colombia's largest coal exporter on Thursday,
knocking 17 wagons off the rails, the Cerrejon coal company
The latest attack comes only days after Cerrejon and its
workers signed a wage deal to end a strike that had paralyzed
exports for a month and cost the government millions of dollars
in lost royalties.
"Around 4:45 am (0945 GMT), the train, which headed towards
the coal port of Puerto Bolivar, was attacked with explosives
... which produced the derailment of 17 wagons," Cerrejon said
in a statement.
The company, which is a joint venture between Anglo American
, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, did not
blame any specific group in the area for the assault.
The security forces, however, usually accuse the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, for
these types of attacks. Rebels and the government are currently
trying to reach a peace deal in talks in Cuba.
"We call on the authorities ... to redouble efforts to
ensure our safety and that of the company," the Sintracarbon
union said in a statement.
In late February, assailants blew up four trucks at
Cerrejon's Mina Sur mining area in Guajira province.
On Monday, Cerrejon and its labor union signed a three-year
wage agreement ending a walkout by workers that started on Feb.
7 and forced the company to declare force majeure on some
The Guajira province is known as a Wild West-type region in
Colombia where smugglers and drug runners use the long border
with neighboring Venezuela as well as access to the Caribbean
sea to ship their illegal wares.
Contraband in the region is believed to date back to the
16th century when local indigenous people sold pearls to passing
The FARC has had a limited presence in the Guajira after the
entrance of right-wing paramilitary groups in the 2000s pushed
the guerrillas into remote areas of the province.
According to one study, the main actors in the area are the
new criminal gangs that emerged from the demobilization of
paramilitary groups and the breakup of the traditional cartels.
Oil and mining operations have been targets for armed groups
as well as labor unrest, although security for business has
vastly improved since a U.S.-backed offensive against
anti-government guerrillas and drug gangs 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.