Workers at key Chilean copper mine vote to end strike

Santiago (AFP) –


Workers at the Chuquicamata copper mine in northern Chile were to resume work Friday after accepting a final offer from management to end a two-week-long stoppage that has weighed on commodity markets, the company said.

In a statement Thursday Codelco, the world's biggest copper producer, said 3,200 workers belonging to three unions would "resume their usual work on Friday June 28".

Codelco accounts for 11 percent of the world's copper production.

As part of the deal, approved by a large majority of workers, workers at the mine are to receive a salary increase of 1.2 percent.

The company will also fund better healthcare for staff hired from next January.

"This reduces the supply uncertainty on the global copper market," said analysts at Commerzbank.

ING analysts noted that the mine had been running at over 60 percent of usual capacity during the stoppage, thus "avoiding any major supply losses".

Around 1150 GMT, the price of copper stood slightly higher in London, up 0.02 percent on the day.

Thursday's deal comes only days after striking workers voted down a previous offer, opting instead to continue their walkout.

Located in the harsh Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Chuquicamata is considered the world's largest open pit copper mine.

It produced 320,000 fine metric tons of copper last year and employs 4,300 miners, making it Codelco's third-biggest mine.

Economists estimate one day of downed tools costs Codelco 1,000 tons of copper and around $5.8 million (5.1 million euros).

The strike came at a delicate moment. After operating for more than 100 years as an open pit, Chuquicamata will shift in July to underground block cave mining following an investment of $5.8 billion.

Copper is used mostly for wiring and electrical equipment because of its high capacity to conduct heat and electricity.