Company News

UPDATE 2-Colombia's Cerrejon miner to boost production

* Company aiming at Asia after fall in Europe exports

* China coal exports seen increasing (Recasts with Asia shipments, paragraph 1, adds comment from Cerrejon president, details about mine)

CARTAGENA, Colombia, May 13 (Reuters) - Colombia’s Cerrejon mining company will seek to increase coal exports to 32 million tonnes with more focus on shipments to Asia as demand in Europe slips, the company president said on Thursday.

Cerrejon, Colombia's biggest exporter, is a joint venture owned equally by BHP Billiton BLT.L, Anglo American AAL.L and Xstrata XTA.L.

Cerrejon mine, in La Guajira state in northeast Colombia, is the world’s biggest opencast coal mine.

“This year, we’re trying to export our mine’s capacity, which is 32 million tonnes, and so far we’re looking good,” Cerrejon President Leon Teicher told reporters at an international mining and energy conference in Cartagena.

Colombia is ranked No. 5 in global coal exports, behind Indonesia and Australia, and ranked almost equally with Russia and South Africa.

Cerrejon last year exported 30.5 million tonnes.

Teicher said the company suffered losses in coal sales to Europe, representing 60 percent of total exports, due to a low demand during the global economic crisis.

Production shipped to Europe now makes up 40 percent of the miner’s total exports, he said.

The company has sold more than 3 million tonnes to China, India, Thailand and South Korea, this year, Teicher said.

“We hope to sell the most to China,” he said.

Colombian coal sales to China have slowed due to a rally in freight rates but are likely to continue strongly in the second half of the year, keeping European supply tight when utilities resume buying.

Colombia is enjoying a boom in energy and mining investment as the country’s long war has waned under President Alvaro Uribe, who sent troops to retake areas once under control of leftist guerrillas. (Reporting by Javier Mozzo; Writing by Luis Andres Henao; Editing by David Gregorio. Gary Hill)