Chile-owned copper giant Codelco, the world’s No.1 producer of the red metal, said Saturday damages to its Salvador mine caused by striking workers have escalated, and confirmed it will file a legal complain against protesters this week.
Contract workers belonging to Chile’s Confederation of Copper Workers, or CTC, have been protesting across the miner’s operations since July 21, leading to the shutdown of the Salvador mine and limited interruptions at mines elsewhere.
The striking employees, around 1% of Codelco’s total workforce, want rights to negotiate a benefits package similar to the one offered to the company’s staff.
For almost 20 days, the Salvador mine — Codelco’s smallest operation — has been in the hands of protesters, who have also blocked all access roads. Dozens of equipment have been destroyed in the process, including those at the mine’s control room. Workers who attempted to protect machinery before the arrival of forecasted heavy rains this weekend were pelted with stones, the firm said in the statement.
“Nothing can justify risking the integrity of our employees or destroying property belonging to all Chileans,” Patricio Chavez, vice president of corporate affairs and sustainability noted.
The copper giant added the ongoing protests have cost it about $15 million in damaged equipment and lost production so far.
Codelco needs that money, especially because it is in the midst of executing a $25 billion investment plan aimed to expand its decades-old flagship mines and search for new high-grade deposits.
Copper, which accounts for 60% of Chile’s exports and 15% of gross domestic product, has lost 11% of its value during the past year.
Images courtesy of Codelco.