Published: Fri, February 10, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Escondida mine workers to strike after negotiations fail

Workers at BHP Billiton Ltd.'s majority-owned Minera Escondida copper mine in Chile went on strike Thursday following unsuccessful talks for a new collective bargaining agreement, a union official said.

Around 5% of the world's total copper production comes from the Escondida mine, located in northern Chile's Atacama Desert. The strike is likely to impact global copper supplies.

"We assume, with complete conviction, that we will not produce during this stage, since a strike of operators and maintenance workers does not provide the right conditions to safeguard the safety and integrity of our employees", Villaplana said in a translated statement.

London copper climbed on Wednesday, boosted by supply concerns after miner BHP Billiton said it would halt output at the world´s biggest copper mine during a strike set to begin this week.

According to US-based brokerage Jefferies, a work stoppage at Escondida will reduce about 25,000 tonnes a week from the global copper market.

Concentrate exports from the mine in Papua, Indonesia, were halted on January 12 as part of Indonesia's push to add value domestically to natural resources.

"Right now the sulfide leaching plant has stopped, the electrowinning B1 and B2 plants have stopped and the other plants are stopping and what they (the company) are going to do is stockpile (copper)", said Patricio Tapia, the president of Escondida Union No.1.

The threat of the output reductions also boosted Shanghai Futures Exchange copper by almost 2 percent.

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