Imminent strikes to hit world’s largest copper producers

Several labour conflicts, including the threat of strikes, are currently looming over the operations of Chile's state-owned copper giant Codelco's Salvador division as well as those of global miner BHP Billiton (ASX, NYSE: BHP) in the South American country.

Yesterday Codelco’s main unions rejected the company’s bonus offer and voted in favour of a stoppage beginning Sept. 1, reports La Segunda (in Spanish). This is the first payroll workers-led strike to hit Salvador in the last 25 years.

The division’s 2012 output accounted for 3.6% of Codelco's total for the year, or 63,000 tonnes of copper.

Meanwhile workers at BHP’s Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, are expected to vote on a new proposal regarding their bonus, as well as on a new way of calculating the bonus, Reuters quoted union leader, Roberto Arriagada, as saying.

The miners’ representatives rejected last week a first proposal and warned of a new strike similar to the 24-hour stoppage staged August 14, which affected all of BHP's operations in Chile.

Escondida is located 3,100 meters above sea level, in northern Chile, close to the city of Antofagasta. In 2012 its output reached almost 1.076 million tonnes of copper, 31.3% more than in 2011.

BHP Billiton owns the majority of with a 57.5% stake. Rio Tinto (30.0%), JECO Corporation (10.0%) and JECO 2 Ltd (2.5%) also hold shares in the copper mine.

Image of Codelco workers marching in Chile's north, courtesy of All Voices.