For five days, workers of the Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile have been on strike. Negotiations between the unions and mining company Codelco haven’t resolved the conflict. Yesterday, the strike turned violent when workers clashed with police.
After protesting workers tried to set up camp at the entrance of the Chuquicamata mine, police forces intervened and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. According to the striking unions, at least 12 people were arrested, and several workers were injured.
Over 3,000 workers are on strike for five days now after demands weren’t met in negotiations with Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner. The workers unions 1, 2 and 3, who represent over 80% of the Chuquicamata’s workers, demand better health care, an optimized retirement plan and equal treatment of all workers in the mine.
After yesterday’s clashes, Codelco came forward with a final offer, that according to the company was the maximum effort that could be done, considering “the reality of the mining business,” and the transformation of the Chuquicamata mine.
According to Reuters, the offer didn’t address the key demands on health care, retirement and fair treatment, but did include a raise of 1.2% and “a one-time benefits package, worth around US$20,000.”
Fall In Production
Earlier this week, when the strike had been going on for three days, Codelco said it had been able to maintain output at 50% of Chuquicamata’s capacity. Those working are miners who belong to other unions.
Moody’s Investors Service released that same day a research note, warning of the impact a prolonged strike could have on the production volumes of Codelco.
A decrease in production means more bad news for the state-owned company, that saw its copper output drop 18% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019. The drop was attributed to the Altiplanic winter of early 2019, that caused mines to overflow, and the expensive process of restructuring “Chuqui”.
As reported by Chile Today, the century-old world’s largest open pit copper mine is undergoing a transformation into an underground mine. The restructuring, a project that costs Codelco an estimated US$5 billion, must extend the lifetime of the mine by another 40 years.
Once fully underground, the annual production from the mine is projected at 320,000 tonnes of copper. The switch is part of Codelco’s grander ambitions: a 10-year, USD$39 billion revamp of its mines. Codelco holds 10% of the world’s known proven and probable copper reserves and is responsible for 11% of the global annual copper output.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.