Union goes on strike at Candelaria copper mine in Chile
The breakdown in wage negotiations underscores potential supply risks as major producer Escondida enters mediation with its workers
Members of a union at Lundin Mining’s Candelaria copper operation in Chile began a strike after the breakdown in wage negotiations that are being tracked by several other mines in the metal’s top-producing nation.
About 350 members of the Mina Union started an indefinite stoppage on Thursday morning. Toronto-based Lundin said it did not expect a material impact on production or shipments.
The previous collective agreement with the union expired on September 30 2020.
While Candelaria produces far less copper than giant Chilean mines owned by BHP and Codelco, the collapse in talks underscores supply risks in a country that accounts for a quarter of global production. This quarter, mines with annual output of 2.8-million tonnes have labour negotiations that need to be settled, according to UBS analysts.
Candelaria management delivered a new offer in the last day of mediated talks on Tuesday, but the company did not request an extension to the mediation that would have allowed union leaders to present the proposal to members, the union said in a notice. In a previous notice, the union said members would vote on the offer.
“It was never our goal to reach these instances, but the intransigence of the company makes us take this path as a fundamental right to achieve benefits,” the union wrote.
Candelaria said it respected the labour negotiation process and the legitimate right to strike, calling on all other staff and contractors to report to their regular shifts as usual.
“We all have to work together to ensure that we maintain our focus on safety, avoid distractions, and make every effort to ensure safe production,” the company said.
Candelaria is also engaged in wage negotiations with a second union, whose 548 members rejected the company’s final offer in regular talks. Candelaria has not indicated whether it will request mediation with the second union.
A similar process is under way at Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, with a union of supervisors scheduled to conclude an initial mediation period with owner BHP. Without an accord, the supervisors could begin a strike or the two sides could request another five days of mediation.
Escondida churned out 1.19-million tonnes in 2019, compared with Candelaria’s 111,400 tonnes, Chilean government data shows.
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