Freeport’s Cerro Verde copper mine resumes normal operations

Around 1,300 unionized employees at Freeport-McMoRan's (NYSE:FCX) Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru went back to work on Friday, effectively putting and end to a 18-day strike that halved the mine’s output.

The workers, who went on strike on March 10 demanding special benefit payments to protect their incomes against a downturn in the metal prices, as well as better working conditions, signed an agreement Thursday, local paper Gestión reports (in Spanish).

As part of the settlement, the union accepted the company's offer to improve family health care benefits and pay workers their portion of the mine's profits earlier than usual, the article says.

The news follows the end of a historically long 43-day strike at BHP Billiton’s Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine in neighbouring Chile.

Cerro Verde, controlled by Freeport-McMoRan with a 53.6% stake, Sumitomo Metal (21%) and Buenaventura (19.6%), produced just under 500,000 tonnes of the red metal last year, making it Peru's top copper mine.

Peru is the world’s No.2 copper producer and mining accounts for about 60% of its export earnings.