For Barrick, when it rains it pours: Chilean workers vote to strike

The four unions representing Barrick Gold’s (TSX, NYSE:ABX) Pascua Lama mine workers on the Chilean side, have rejected the latest wage offer from the company, threatening to stage a strike and saying that at least 300 of their co-workers in Argentina will down tools in their support.

While unionized workers still has to vote whether and when to walkout of their jobs, La Tercera (in Spanish) reports that if a labour action were approved, it would seriously risk Pascua Lama’s viability. This because Barrick would no longer be able to meet certain legal obligations, such as daily environmental monitoring over glaciers and regular border controls expected for a bi-national project.

“Barrick’s poor management of the Pascua Lama project includes the way it has managed relations with its own employees (…) [The company’s] workers have been treated in a patronizing and abusive way during the wage negotiations process, which resulted in the dismissal of workers protected by union laws," the trades group was quoted as saying.

The Canadian company's permit for the $8.5bn massive project, which is years behind schedule and way over budget, has been upheld by Chile's Supreme Court although a local Antofagasta Court of Appeals agreed earlier this month to hear a new appeal by environmental groups lobbying against the proposed mine high in the Andes.

The gold miner’s employees are expected to vote whether to accept the newest wage offer this week by Oct. 30.

Image of raindrops photographed during very rare weather in northern Chile, courtesy of the European Southern Observatory (ESO)