Escondida strike turns violent as protesters block roads, battle police (Reuters U.S. March 1, 2017)

The three-week-long strike at Chile’s Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, turned ugly on Wednesday when a group of protesters blocked a highway, provoking confrontations with the police.

Escondida’s approximately 2,500 unionized workers began a strike on Feb. 9 after contract talks with mine owner BHP Billiton failed, boosting global copper prices on expectations of tighter supply.

Early Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters, some with shirts, caps and flags bearing the union’s emblem, illegally barricaded the main road that connects the regional city of Antofagasta with the mine.

A Reuters witness said they burned tires and threw rocks and sticks at the police, who responded with tear gas. By late morning, the protesters had dispersed. The union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The events reflect the increasing bitterness and division between the two sides, as the pressure to secure a deal on both ratchets up, but whose positions still appear to be far apart after three weeks of strike.

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