Chile Mine Strike Threatens Copper Supply


"The wage conflict in the copper-producing nation has no end in sight."


Striking contract workers at Chile's El Teniente on Tuesday threatened to further hit output at the world's number five copper mine with road blockades, escalating a wage conflict with no end in sight.

Output at the Codelco-owned mine was slashed by 60% since violence by temporary workers kept staff employees out of the deposit over the weekend. Codelco and unions agreed for staff workers to stay home after contractors threw rocks at buses carrying them to the world's top underground operation.

Codelco said an emergency crew has been able to keep output at 40% capacity for the fourth day on Tuesday.

Protest leader Luis Nunez said contractors will block roads to cut any access by emergency crews or dissenting contractors to the 404,000 ton-per-year mine.

"There seems to be no other way to get people to listen to us," Nunez said. "Workers are fed up with this situation."

A police official said several contractors were detained on Monday for trying to set up a camp alongside the road that leads to El Teniente and for throwing rocks at buses.

Nunez said protesters were urging the government of President Sebastian Pinera to step in and force contract companies and Codelco to renew stalled wage talks.

Contractors are asking for higher wages and benefits closer to their staff colleagues who got $32,000 in bonuses and soft loans to ink a collective deal in April.

The 14-day protest by thousands of temporary workers has raised fears of demonstrations spreading to other mines in Chile, the world's top copper producer.

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