Workers at Antofagasta’s Zaldivar mine enter mediation to stave off strike

The Zaldívar copper mine in Chile, a joint venture between Antofagasta and Barrick, will be the country’s first mine to operate with 100% renewable electricity. (Image courtesy of Barrick Gold)

Chile’s Antofagasta and unionized workers at its Zaldívar mine entered into mediation with the government on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to stave off a strike amid a coronavirus outbreak in the South American nation.

Workers at the mine voted in favor of a walk-off late last week after rejecting a new contract offer, which they said had stripped some current benefits.

The company has agreed to continue to dialogue. A period of government mediation will run through July 22, the union told Reuters.

Antofagasta still has until Friday to request government mediation at another of its copper mines, Centinela, where supervisors paved the way for a strike after rejecting the company’s pay offer.

Major copper miners operating in Chile, the world’s top copper producer, have largely maintained output even as measures to combat the coronavirus have devastated other parts of its economy.

The fast-spreading virus, however, has prompted calls in recent weeks for shutting down mines and beefing up sanitary protocols.

Zaldivar, which is co-owned by Barrick Gold Corp, accounts for around 2% of Chile’s annual copper production.

(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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