Codelco mine unions threaten strikes after blockade

Reuters reported that union leaders briefly blocked roads to Codelco’s giant Chuquicamata mine in a protest that did not hit output but highlights growing labor risks for the world’s top copper producer.

Union leaders said that the blockade was a warning call and threatened strikes if the state giant does not guarantee the jobs of hundreds of workers at one of the world’s biggest mines.

The open pit mine which is Codelco’s top operation with output of 528,000 tonnes in 2010 plans to turn into an underground operation in coming years as ore grades decline on the surface.

Leaders said that the five hour blockade came less than a month after a sometimes violent protest by temporary workers forced the state run miner to slash output at its No 2 operation El Teniente. The Chuquicamata and El Teniente protests are not linked the workers.

Codelco said the blockade did not affect output at Chuquicamata and that it is always open to dialogue with workers.

Mr Jaime Graz union leader said that this was a warning call for Codelco. If executives do not take us into consideration we will move ahead with a shutdown that could be nationwide.

Codelco has denied any plan for massive firings at the mine. For more than two weeks Codelco has produced below capacity at El Teniente under the threat of violence after temporary workers demanding higher wages threw rocks at buses carrying workers to the world’s No 5 copper mine. The mine is currently producing above 70% capacity.

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