February 4, 2011 / 4:20 PM / in 7 years

Colombia govt to mediate Cerrejon, coal union talks

* Cerrejon, workers have been in talks since early Dec

* Union expected to decide on Saturday on strike

BOGOTA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Colombia’s government will try to mediate between the country’s largest coal exporter, Cerrejon, and its workers on Friday over a compensation deal as a strike deadline looms, a union official said.

Cerrejon produces on average 85,000 tonnes a day of high-quality thermal coal for export, and any prolonged strike would hurt output at a time when global supplies are tight due to issues in almost all major thermal producers.

    Francisco Ramirez, a consultant for the Sintracarbon union, told Reuters that the company and workers would meet with the vice president for mediation talks after the two sides failed to reach a deal following discussions since early December.

    The union is expected to decide on Saturday whether to accept the final proposal from Cerrejon or go on strike -- that is close to a deadline set by Colombian law for workers to carry out a walkout after voting to strike.

    Cerrejon is a joint venture owned equally by BHP Billiton (BLT.L), Anglo American (AAL.L) and Xstrata XTA.L.

    Global coal markets have been vulnerable to supply disruptions in many important exporting countries, such as Australia, and that has boosted prices. (Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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