CARACAS(Reuters) - Colombia coal producer Cerrejon has slowed operations in the southern zone of its mine in order to keep particulate levels within legal limits amid a lack of rainfall, but said it still expected coal output to rise this year over last.
The country's biggest coal miner said in an emailed statement that it stopped some of its machinery in June and that the dryness was linked to the El Nino weather pattern.
"In August we'll look again at weather conditions and what possibility there is to resume operations in all of the mine," the statement said.
Cerrejon, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc AAL.L, BHP Billiton Ltd BHP.AX and Glencore Xstrata PLC GLEN.L, mines more than one-third of the coal in the world's fourth-biggest exporter.
Chief Executive Roberto Junguito said in May that exports should rise from 33 million tonnes last year. He said then that there had been other stoppages at the mine due to dry weather at the beginning of the year.
Separately, a strike by mechanics at Colombia's biggest mines entered its seventh day on Tuesday. The wage dispute by some 3,500 mechanics with their employer, contractor Dimantec, has reached a stalemate and no further talks were scheduled for Tuesday, Dimantec said.
"We are still open to negotiations. We have made very interesting proposals. What the union is asking for is an exaggerated increase, but today the dialogue is suspended," said Dimantec manager Alvaro Ropera.
Colombia's labor ministry has been seeking to maintain dialogue between the two sides. Cerrejon said on Monday that the stoppage had no impact on its operations so far. The country's No. 2 miner, Drummond, has not commented on the situation.
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Dan Grebler)