Antofagasta, Barrick avoid Chile mine strike

Workers at the Zaldívar copper mine in Chile signed a three-year wage deal with operator Antofagasta, the union and company confirmed  to Reuters on Monday.

The workers voted to go on strike two weeks ago but had to enter a mandated government mediation period at the Antofagasta-Barrick Gold joint venture before being allowed to down tools.

A strike would've been the first in the history of Antofagasta. The London-listed company is part of the Luksic group of companies, one of Chile's largest conglomerates.

Zaldívar, an open-pit, heap-leach mine, produced 102,000 tonnes of copper in 2016. During the first quarter operator Antofagasta said production rose 7.3% to 26,600 tonnes at a cash cost of $1.75 per pound.

Canadian gold giant Barrick sold half of Zaldívar to Antofagasta for a shade over $1 billion in cash at the end of 2015. Proven and probable copper reserves at the mine located 150km east of Chile's capital Santiago is estimated at 2.36m tonnes (2016).

Antofagasta also faced labour action at its Centinela which last year produced 180,000 tonnes of copper. Antofagasta is the world's number 9 copper producer with total output of 477,000 tonnes last year on an attributable basis.

Chile is responsible for some 30% of global output. The world's largest copper mine Escondida was hit by a 43-day strike in February-March this year that crimped production by around 120,000 tonnes.