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Colombia coal strike to continue into next week, no impact yet -union

By Peter Murphy

CARACAS, July 17 (Reuters) - A strike by mechanics at Colombias largest coal mines will continue into next week after negotiations with their employer ended without agreement on Thursday, a union leader said.

The nine-day stoppage by around 3,500 mechanics seeking improved pay has not caused any notable impact on coal production in the worlds fourth-biggest exporter of the solid fuel, head of the Sintraime union Felix Herrera told Reuters on Thursday.

He said the mechanics employer, contractor Dimantec, had maintained the same pay offer made in previous negotiations, which the mechanics had rejected, and Thursday's meeting ended without agreement. The two sides will sit down again on Tuesday, he said.

The mechanics maintain and repair heavy machinery used in the extraction of around 90 million tonnes of coal per year in Colombia. Coal prices have reacted little to news of the strike which comes during a period of mild weather in Europe that has eased demand in that key market, as well as its ample stocks.

Colombias largest coal miner is joint venture Cerrejon owned by Anglo American Plc, BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata Plc. The No. 2 miner is U.S.-based Drummond.

(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)