BHP dodges copper strike in Chile with eleventh-hour wage deal

Spence copper mine. (Image courtesy of BHP)

BHP Group averted a strike at its second-largest copper mine in Chile after workers at the Spence operation accepted a final wage offer on the last day of mediated talks.

The deal will ease concerns over a potential stoppage that would have further tightened global supplies of the metal. It comes after staff at a BHP operations center in Santiago ended a strike and returned to work.

About 92% of the 1,079 operations and maintenance staff who voted on Thursday accepted the offer, according to a document provided by the union. Workers had rejected a previous proposal and BHP sought mediation that was extended until the end of the day Thursday.

While Spence is dwarfed by BHP’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, the wage agreement may be positive for talks that begin at Escondida this month. A 44-day strike at Escondida rattled the copper market in 2017.

Chile is undergoing a slew of collective bargaining processes in the mining industry that add to supply risks in a country that accounts for a third of the world’s mined copper. The wage talks are coming as global demand recovers from the pandemic and copper trades at near record-high prices.

(By Daniela Sirtori-Cortina)


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