Chilean parliament urges Codelco to meet with El Teniente workers

The Mining Committee of the Chilean parliament is expected to send a formal, written communication to state-owned Codelco to urge management to start a dialogue with workers at the century-old El Teniente mine.

The decision was reached following a session organized by the parliament’s lower chamber in which Codelco executives met with employees, the deputy ministers of mining and health and the federal labour board.

At the meeting, labour representatives denounced the lack of air-quality monitoring plants in and around the mine. They say pollution is making workers sick and that many of them are showing signs of silicosis.

According to Cooperativa radio, Codelco’s general manager, André Sougarret, said at the company is planning to increase S02 capture to 95% up from 92%, as well as reduce the amounts of arsenic and particulate material produced at the mine site. “We do have monitoring stations, first to comply with the legislation regarding residential areas and also for places like (the uninhabited mining town) Sewell,” he said.

Sougarret added that the world's largest copper miner is open to future meetings with workers to evaluate if their demands are feasible or not.

Earlier this year, Codelco received environmental approvals for a revised plan to extend the working life of El Teniente to 50 years. The miner is seeking to add another, deeper level at the mine to access its top producing deposit and maintain total output at approximately 450,000 tonnes of refined copper per year.