Workers at Chile’s Escondida copper mine to strike Thursday: union – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters U.S. – February 7, 2017)

ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE – Workers are set to strike on Thursday at BHP Billiton Plc’s Escondida copper mine after contract talks mediated by the Chilean government failed to reach a deal, the main union at the world’s largest copper mine told Reuters.

The union has warned that a strike at the Chilean copper mine could be lengthy, potentially affecting global supplies of a metal used in everything from construction to telecommunications.

BHP Billiton said it planned to halt production during the strike since it could not guarantee the safety of the 80 workers the government had authorized to remain at the mine to perform “critical duties”, such as equipment upkeep and adherence to environmental protocols.

“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,” union spokesman Carlos Allendes said on Tuesday.

The strike is planned to start at 8 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Thursday. “We’ve decided not to replace workers, at least during the first 15 days of the strike. With complete conviction, we have accepted that we will not be producing during this phase because the safety of our workers cannot be guaranteed during a strike,” said Patricio Vilaplana, Escondida’s vice-president of corporate affairs.

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