Escondida mine workers to strike after negotiations fail


Workers at the BHP Billiton-operated Escondida copper mine in Chile are scheduled to go on strike following unsuccessful negotiations with management. 

Reuters reported that the main union of workers said the strike may continue for an indefinite period at the BHP Billiton majority-owned mine. The strike is likely to impact global copper supplies.

Around 5% of the world’s total copper production comes from the Escondida mine, located in northern Chile's Atacama Desert.

BHP has a 58% interest in the site and manages mining operations. Other stakeholders include Rio Tinto and Japan-based Mitsubishi.

"The company doesn't want to change its position, so we understand that there is nothing left to negotiate."

Negotiations on wages and other benefits to workers continued for five days and were mediated by the Chilean Government.

In a statement, BHP Billiton said that it intends to stop production at the mine due to the strike as it cannot guarantee the safety of 80 workers who have been permitted by the government to stay at the mine to undertake critical duties.

An employees union spokesman Carlos Allendes was quoted by the news agency as saying: “The company doesn't want to change its position, so we understand that there is nothing left to negotiate. There is nothing left to talk about, we've already talked a lot and we are definitely going on strike.”

In the recent weeks, global copper prices swelled due to concerns over the strike in Escondida.