Most unions at Chile's El Teniente copper mine accept contract

SANTIAGO, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Four of the five labor unions representing workers at the El Teniente copper mine in Chile have accepted the latest contract offer from state mining company Codelco, union leaders told Reuters.

"The contract was approved by an ample margin after the company improved its offer," said Guillermo Lemaitre, president of the main labor union involved in the negotiations, said late Thursday.

"One always wants more, but we are aware of the situation of the mining industry," Lemaitre said.

Codelco is planning a 10-year, $39 billion total overhaul of several of its operations as it seeks to maintain production despite rapidly falling ore grades at Chile's major deposits.

The union that voted against the new contract at El Teniente has until October, when the current labor pact expires, to strike a deal. Workers at Chile's Escondida copper mine have meanwhile entered a final phase of negotiations with miner BHP.

Labor strife in Chile has heightened uncertainty in copper markets amid growing trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

(By Antonio de La Jara; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski)