Antofagasta-Barrick JV in Chile safe from strike action

Zaldívar copper mine located about 1,400 km north of Chile’s capital Santiago. Photo by Barrick Gold.

Chile’s Minera Zaldívar, which is 50% owned by Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX)(NYSE:GOLD) and 50% by Antofagasta Minerals — the mining arm of Antofagasta Plc (LON: ANTO) — yielded to the demands of the Supervisors Union to avoid a strike that had been looming since late August.

Following weeks of negotiations, the company offered a 1% salary readjustment plus a bonus of approximately $11,943 per employee, an offer that was approved by 53% of the unionized workers and that is valid for the next 36 months. The 47% that rejected the bid were asking for a bonus of over $18,000, which was the union’s initial proposal.

No stoppage has ever taken place at the Zaldívar operation

The company also said that it will introduce new measures to improve the workers’ quality of life, including educational and healthcare benefits.

On August 23, 2019, 94% of Minera Zaldívar’s unionized workers rejected the company’s first proposal and called for a general strike. In an official communiqué, they refused Antofagasta’s arguments of lack of cash flow as an obstacle for accepting their suggested bonuses and salary increases.

“The company reported revenues of $2.5 billion during the first semester of the year. Antofagasta Plc reported an income growth of 19% during the first half of 2019 thanks to increased gold and molybdenum production and prices, two subproducts that the Group commercializes. This way, it counteracted the 6% fall in copper prices,” the statement reads. “However, the company doesn’t seem willing to negotiate, dismissing the chance to add value to its business through the different proposals presented by the union.”

The fact that the company was able to provide a middle ground and avoid a strike meant that Zaldívar remains undefeated, as no stoppage has ever taken place at the quarter-century-old operation.

The open-pit, heap-leach copper mine operated by Antofagasta Minerals is located some 175 kilometres south of the city of Antofagasta. It produces approximately 51,700 tonnes of copper per year and has a remaining mine life of 14 years.

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