Chile's copper mine strike ends

Workers at Chile's La Escondida mine voted on Thursday to end their 25-day strike, a union official reported.

    It may take a week for the mine to return to full production

    Pedro Marin, the union secretary and spokesman, said that 1,607 miners voted to accept a new 40-month contract with 121 voting to continue the strike.

    In a secret ballot that lasted more than six hours, the workers accepted the union leaders' contract agreement with the executives of the world's largest privately-owned copper mine, controlled by the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton.

    The new contract will be signed on Friday and provides for a five per cent wage increase and a $16,600 signing bonus.

    During the strike, which saw sometimes violent demonstrations, the union modified its demands at least twice, coming down from original demands for a 13 per cent rise and a $30,000 bonus.

    The strike started on August 7 when workers walked off the job to demand a new salary and benefits deal reflecting copper prices which were near $3.50 a pound, compared to $0.67 a pound when their last contract was signed three years earlier.

    Karen Poniachik, the Chilean mining and energy minister, said: "After 25 days of strike I think it is very positive for the company and the workers and of course for the mining sector that there has been an agreement."

    The strike at Escondida polarised opinion in Chile about how much of a share workers should receive of booming global mining profits and came ahead of contract talks at Codelco, the state-owned company that is the world's largest copper producer.

    Escondida produces eight per cent of the world's copper -1.3million tonnes a year.

    Company officials said that each unproductive day at the mine cost the company some $16million.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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