Union action halts mine production
Santiago - Unionised Chilean workers at Collahuasi, the world's third most productive copper mine, halted production on Saturday in a strike demanding a wage bonus.
Union leader Cristian Arancibia said the 500 workers were seeking a bonus for the final quarter of the year, while mine owners - Swiss firm Xstrata and the British based Anglo American - said they were in "constant communication with the union leadership" in a hope to resolve the work stoppage.
The owners of the mine noted the union conflict occurred at a time of the union's internal election, suggesting the conflict could be resolved. The protest, they insisted, was taking place "without a major impact on production".
The shutdown was being forced by some 500 miners - out of a 1 500-strong total work force - who blocked the entrance of the mine some 1 800km north of Santiago.
Collahuasi produces nearly 3% of the world's copper output. Some 535 000 tons of copper were mined at the site in 2009, according to government figures.
In December 2010, workers at Collahuasi went on strike for 33 days seeking higher pay. Weeks later, following an accident at the port the mine uses, activity at the mine ceased until April.
Chile is the world's largest copper producer, with 5.6 million tons annually. More than a million tons a year - or 6.8% of the world production - are produced at the Escondida mine.