November 18, 2013 / 9:01 PM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Colombia says will be hard to meet coal production target

* No. 4 exporter now hopes to hit last year’s 89 mln T

* Output hit by strikes, logistics disruption, rebel attacks

* 2013 particularly disruptive year for coal sector

BOGOTA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Colombia will struggle to meet its 2013 coal production target of 94 million tonnes, the government said on Monday, due to the cumulative impact of weeks-long strikes at top producers and attacks on logistics infrastructure by the country’s rebels.

Vice-Minister for Mines Natalia Gutierrez told reporters the world’s No. 4 coal exporter would aim to at least repeat last year’s 89-million-tonne output but said the government was maintaining the higher official production target nonetheless.

“It will be difficult,” Gutierrez said.

By the end of the third quarter, Colombia’s coal production was 11.2 percent below output in the first nine months of 2012, the National Mining Agency said last week, a narrower gap than the 13.2 percent lower production in the first half.

The government’s announcement on Monday was a factor in a slight rise in coal prices in Europe, where much of Colombia’s steam coal, the kind used to produce electricity, is consumed. Coal for delivery to terminals in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp traded around $83.15 a tonne on Monday afternoon, up 75 cents from Friday’s settlement.

There has been near-constant disruption in Colombia’s coal sector this year, which included strikes at the biggest miner, Cerrejon, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc, BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata Plc, and at No. 2 producer Drummond. The strikes lasted one month and seven weeks respectively.

Bomb attacks on Cerrejon’s private railroad added to the disruption, as well as a temporary ban early in the year on trains running overnight on a line shared by several miners.

“(2013) could have been much better. The price hasn’t been the best either,” Carlos Llanos, from the Naves shipping agency in the coastal town of Barranquilla, told Reuters. He expects 2014 exports of steam and metallurgical coal to increase.

A three-year pay deal at top coal producer Cerrejon that ended a strike by its miners reduces the likelihood of major labor disruption in 2014.

In the Drummond dispute, the government intervened and sent the case to arbitrators. Its miners are meanwhile back at work.

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