* Discussions have been ongoing since early December
* Officials say workers, company near to a deal
BOGOTA Feb 5 Colombian coal workers are
expected to decide on Sunday about a new compensation deal with
Cerrejon, the country's largest exporter, their union said,
with officials saying the two sides were near an agreement.
Cerrejon produces on average 85,000 tonnes a day of
high-quality thermal coal, and any prolonged stoppage at the
mine would hurt output at a time when global supplies are tight
due to issues in almost all major thermal producers.
"We should have a decision by Sunday morning. Today we're
going to talk to two groups of workers and tomorrow another
group," Sintracarbon union president, Igor Diaz, told Reuters
by telephone on Saturday.
Diaz had said on Friday that he expected a decision by
midnight Saturday. [ID:nN04106121]
Another union official and a company negotiator said the
two sides had reached an "initial" deal though it was still up
to workers to accept the pact and a strike was still possible.
Originally all sides had said the deadline to decide on a
strike was this weekend under Colombian law, but the company
and the union said that deadline was set back to Tuesday after
discussions with the labor ministry about the law.
Cerrejon and workers have been in talks since Dec. 9.
Cerrejon -- unlike privately owned Drummond and Glencore,
Colombia's other top coal producers -- has listed partners, BHP
Billiton (BLT.L), Anglo American (AAL.L) and Xstrata XTA.L.
Adding to pressure to reach a deal with workers, its
partners have had lower output from mines in Australia due to
In June last year, workers at U.S. coal miner Drummond
reached a three-year deal, while a month later laborers at the
La Jagua mine of Glencore's Prodeco unit inked a two-year deal
after a five-week walkout. [ID:nN15264583] [ID:nN15264583]
Global coal markets have been vulnerable to supply
disruptions in many important exporting countries, such as
Australia, boosting prices.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Jack Kimball; Editing by