Codelco resumes operations at Chuquicamata amid fresh road blockages

Codelco resumes operations at Chuquicamata amid fresh road blockages

Chuquicamata is the world's largest open pit copper mine.

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer, has resumed operations at its Chuquicamata mine after a week-long strike by contract workers forced the miner to briefly stop work at its second-largest copper asset.

A group of demonstrators, however, continued to block some access roads on Thursday morning, attempting to seize a bus that was heading to the nearby Gabriela Mistral mine, 24 Horas reports (in Spanish).

Contract employees affiliated with the Confederation of Copper Workers, or CTC, represent around 1% of Codelco’s workforce. They have been on strike since July 21, over rights to negotiate a benefits package similar to the one offered to direct employees.

The CTC, which acts for contractors such as cleaners and drivers, has said demonstrations will last until the copper giant agrees to talk with them.

While Codelco ruled out negotiations with the strikers, Chief Executive Officer Nelson Pizarro met Tuesday with firms that employ them. Both said afterwards that the group’s demands were unrealistic under current market conditions.

Instead, the state-owned company also released a document, which lays out proposed foundations for a new outsourcing model. The article also suggests solutions to resolve the conflict that has mobilized contractors.

Chuquicamata, which is located 1,650 km north of the Chilean capital of Santiago, is Codelco’s main division, accounting for over 40% of the miner’s total production in 2014.

The copper giant is in the midst of executing a $25 billion investment plan aimed to expand its decades-old flagship mines and search for new high-grade deposits.

Copper, which accounts for 60% of Chile's exports and 15% of gross domestic product, has lost 11% of its value during the past year. Only yesterday it hit a six-year low as slowing demand in China increased concerns over a glut.