BHP eyes temporary workers to break strike at Chile’s Escondida mine – by Fabian Cambero (Reuters U.K. – March 8, 2017)

SANTIAGO – BHP Billiton (BLT.L) (BHP.AX) may try to restart production at the world’s No.1 copper mine Escondida in Chile using temporary workers once the strike surpasses 30 days, the company told a local radio station on Wednesday.

If their safety could be assured “there is the option of using contractors’ help to try to get production going” and it will be evaluated day by day, Escondida’s corporate affairs director Patricio Vilaplana told Teletrece in an interview.

Local media reported that the company is considering a two-pronged approach as the strike approaches the 30-day mark on Friday – submitting a new contract offer that deals with some of the union’s concerns, and restarting output. BHP declined to comment.

The strike is already the longest in Escondida’s history, boosting global copper prices CMCU3 on tighter supply expectations and leading smelters to cut fees. The mine produced over 1 million tonnes of copper last year, around 5 percent of the world’s total.

The union is confident the bulk of its 2,500 members will not break ranks and accept an offer from the company, said union spokesman Carlos Allendes. After 30 days, under Chilean law, unionized workers have the right to break from the union position and accept the company offer.

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