BHP Billiton resumes operations at Colombia's Cerro Matoso nickel mine

Monday, October 14, 2013

Global resources giant BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHPhas resumed operations at its Cerro Matoso nickel mine in Colombia following the suspension of activities last week due to indigenous protests, a company spokesperson confirmed to BNamericas.

“Operations at Cerro Matoso have been resumed following a partial suspension of activities... due to ongoing demonstrations by members of the local indigenous community," the spokesperson said.

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The mine, located in northern Córdoba department, has been forced to temporarily suspend operations twice since the start of October due to the protests.

"A working dialogue has been established and is continuing with representatives of the local community, government and Cerro Matoso," the spokesperson added." Our expectation is that the continued dialogue will assist in bringing a resolution to this situation."

The indigenous protestors are seeking US$700mn in compensation for health problems allegedly caused by the mine, according to local press reports.

Cerro Matoso is the second largest producer of ferronickel in the world, according to the company website. Last December the Colombian government extended the operating contract for Cerro Matoso until 2029, retroactive to September 30, 2012 when the previous contract expired.

Nickel output at Cerro Matoso for the year ended June 30 was 50,800t, up 3.9% year--on-year.

In Colombia, BHP Billiton also has a one third stake in the Cerrejón coal mine, the country's largest coal producer. Anglo American (LSE: AAL) and Glencore Xstrata (LSE: GLEN) are the other two stakeholders.