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Infrastructure sabotage increases ahead of peace talks

BOMBING of another 10 metres of track on the Cerrejon coal mine railroad in Colombia has coincided with a report that guerrilla army strikes in the country on infrastructure, security forces and civilian targets increased 35% last month.

Justin Niessner
Infrastructure sabotage increases ahead of peace talks

Marxist revolutionaries the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are believed to be responsible for the latest attack on Xstrata, Anglo American and BHP Billiton’s Cerrejon operation in the northern La Guajira province.

FARC has been blamed for several attacks on the mine’s Caribbean port-bound railroad since its opening in 2002, including a strike early last month in which about 13m of track was destroyed at Cerrejon’s connection point to the line.

Analysis of the most recent bombing by InSightCrime suggests that increased activity from FARC and its counterpart, the National Liberation Army, may be connected to an attempt to increase the rebels’ bargaining posture ahead of newly organized negotiations with the government on neutral grounds.

The research group, which focuses on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, said a show of military force and the ability to sabotage infrastructure would strengthen the guerrillas’ position during peace talks.

On Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the government had agreed to hold formal talks with FARC in hopes of ending one of the world’s longest-running guerrilla wars.

Negotiations are planned to open in Oslo on October 5 and continue thereafter in Havana.

The Associated Press reported that the government said it had agreed not to extradite FARC leaders.

FARC supplies half of the world’s cocaine and partially finances its army through drug trafficking.

Cerrejon is the country’s largest mining operation, covering almost 70,000 hectares of coal deposits, segmented into five mining zones exploiting over 40 significant coal seams.

Annual thermal coal production capacity of the open pit complex is 28 million tonnes.

Colombia is the world’s fourth largest coal exporter.

According to a recent forecast by the National Federation of Coal Producers, the South American country is expected to have 100Mt of output in 2012, up significantly from 86Mt last year.

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