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A one-day strike at state copper miner Codelco of Chile may mark just the beginning of supply disruptions in a country producing about a third of the world’s copper.
Union workers at Codelco, which operates seven mines and expects to produce about 1.7 million tonnes of copper in 2013, launched the 24-hour strike on Tuesday with demands for better working conditions and pensions and an end to the use of sub-contractors.
While largely symbolic, the strike coincides with the CRU/CESCO week in Santiago, one of the world’s largest mining conferences dedicated to the copper industry.
Chile is the world’s largest copper producer. It is also host to such global mining giants as BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American PLC and Canada’s Teck Resources Ltd. It is a chief supplier to No. 1 consumer China. Codelco alone supplies more than 10 per cent of annual global supply.
The strike comes also as candidates launch presidential campaigns for elections in November, when Chile’s left will try to wrest power back from the right after conservative president Sebastian Pinera in 2010 ended 20 years of leftist rule.
“If there is no political will to provide concrete answers to these demands within a prudent amount of time, we will continue with our mobilizations, which will escalate over time,” the Federation of Copper Workers said in a statement to launch the strike.
Copper prices had their biggest gains since January on global markets on Tuesday, boosted by news of the Chilean labour unrest – which media said led to a complete freeze in production at Codelco – as well as signs for potential demand growth in China.
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