By Diana Delgado
February 23, 2021 - Colombian mining firm Cerrejon's coal exports jumped by more than 50pc on the month in January, as the firm continued to ramp up production following a three-month strike over September-November.
Cerrejon's exports rose by 590,000t on the month and 190,000t on the year to a 10-month high of 1.7mn t, company figures show.
But exports may have slowed early this month as local communities protesting against the government intermittently blocked Cerrejon's railway over February 1-11, disrupting supply to the miner's Puerto Bolivar port.
Thermal coal stocks at Puerto Bolivar were exhausted on February 10, according to sources at the terminal, forcing a temporary force majeure on exports.
Five out of Cerrejon's six coal pits are now operational, one worker said, including the Annex, La Puente, 100, Patilla and Oreganal pits. Changes to working shift patterns — the main cause of last year's strike action — have only been implemented at the Annex pit so far.
Despite the recovery in output, Cerrejon's production remains short of full capacity because workers with underlying health issues remain at home as a Covid-19 safety precaution. The recent rate of production is similar to the level recorded before the strike, according to one worker.
Cerrejon exported 1.7mn t in August last year before the strike, but exports frequently exceeded 2mn t/month in 2019 before the pandemic.
Shipping data show that most of Cerrejon's exports in December went to Europe and Turkey and the miner may continue to benefit from firm Turkish demand in the near term as coal remains ahead of gas in the merit order for thermal generation and as capacity availability recovers](https://direct.argusmedia.com/newsandanalysis/article/2183085).
In addition, a wide Atlantic-Pacific arbitrage and China's ban on imports from Australia could create opportunities for greater sales of Colombian coal to Asia this year.