No end in sight for Chile’s Codelco copper mine strike

Workers at Chilean state-owned Codelco’s Salvador copper mine continued to block Tuesday access to operations as part of a strike over wages and working conditions that began 12 days ago.

Picketers have blocked supervisors and contracted workers from entering the site. They have also thwarted emergency shifts, damaged machinery and ruined mining facilities, in what the firm qualified as “potentially irreparable damage.”

“The decision of a group of workers to block all access to the various operations of the Salvador division is causing damage [that] could be unrecoverable,” said Codelco in a statement Monday (in Spanish).

Miners at El Salvador, located 800 km north of capital Santiago, began the stoppage after wage negotiations failed in early September. The main union, representing 1,129 workers, rejected an offer that included a 3% pay rise plus a bonus of $18,000 for each employee.

The company has said it can’t improve the offer due to the losses El Salvador had in the first half of the year, which exceeded $50 million.

This is the first payroll workers-led strike to hit Salvador in the last 25 years. The division produced 62,700 tonnes of copper last year, less than 4% of the total generated by Codelco, the world's No. 1 copper producer.

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