Chile’s Escondida miners to vote on contract offer next week

Unionized Chilean workers at BHP Billiton-controlled (NYSE:BHP) Escondida, the world's largest copper deposit, will start to vote on a new contract proposal on Jan. 24, reports.

The new proposal entails a 5% nominal salary readjustment, as well as bonuses and benefits for a total of around $48,665 per worker, the newspaper says.

In December, unionized workers rejected a prior offer from the company, mainly on the grounds that it did not include improvements to production and management bonuses.

Escondida produced 253,800 tonnes of copper in the third quarter of 2012, or 72.4% more than in the same period of 2011, and 787,000 tonnes from January to September last year,

BHP Billiton is currently working on the expansion of Escondida, project that is scheduled to be complete in 2015. The company expects to produce 1.3 million tons of copper that year, representing 23% of Chile’s copper production.

Besides Escondida, BHP Latin American operate iron ore mines in Brazil, other copper mines in Chile and Peru, and has a 33.3% stake in the Cerrejon mine in Colombia, the largest coal operation in Latin America.