Workers at the world’s largest copper mine, Chilean company Escondida, have approved a strike after rejecting the final contract offer offered by multinational owners BHP.
Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper, accounting for 28% of world production. The ore accounts for 10 to 15% of the South American country’s GDP, much of which is exported to China, the world’s largest consumer.
Following the results of a vote which lasted until Saturday evening, the union said in a statement that there had been 2,164 votes in favor of starting the strike against 11 for accepting the offer of the employer.
Union and company leaders can engage in a final dialogue with government mediation within five to ten days.
Escondida workers staged a 44-day strike in 2017, the longest in Chilean mining history. The strike caused $ 740 million in losses for the company.
Workers are asking for a one-time bonus to recognize their work during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as education benefits for their children.
“We hope that this strong vote will be the decisive wake-up call for BHP to start substantive talks (…) if it wants to avoid a large-scale conflict, which could be the most costly in the country’s trade union history” , the union said.
The Escondida mine is located in the world’s driest desert, Atacama in northern Chile, at an altitude of over 3,000 meters (10,000 feet).
This is the same area where in 2010, some 33 men were trapped 700 meters underground for 69 days following a landslide at the Copiapo mine.
© 2021 AFP