CALAMA, Chile, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Chile's Codelco, the world's No. 1 copper producer, said Wednesday it had resumed operations at its massive Chuquicamata complex after workers voted to end a strike, and said it would work to ensure it makes up any output losses.
Workers at Chuquicamata, which produces around 4 percent of the world's mined copper, returned to the mine Wednesday morning after accepting a new wage deal in a vote on Tuesday that clears the decks of contract-related strike risks until the next round of major wage negotiations later this year.
"We have resumed production as workers returned to the mine," a Codelco spokesman told Reuters.
Sergio Jarpa, corporate vice president at the Codelco Norte division, said the company initially estimated output losses from the strike at 1,200 tonnes of fine copper a day. Codelco sources had earlier estimated daily output losses at up to 1,800 tonnes.
"One of the factors we stipulated to solve this conflict, was the immediate return of workers, which happened this morning, and that gives us a chance to mitigate and eventually recover these losses over the coming months," Jarpa told local radio.
The company's Codelco Norte division, which includes the Chuquicamata complex and Radomiro Tomic mine, said Codelco will seek to make up any production losses from the strike to ensure there is no economic impact on the company -- a main state revenue earner.
The strike at the Chuquicamata complex, which was expected to produce 565,000 tonnes of copper in 2009, helped buoy copper prices in recent sessions.
"This kind of strike is bad for Chile," Finance Minister Andres Velasco told state television. "Beyond resolving a strike, these things are resolved by improving institutions and rules."
"When there is more productivity ... (Codelco) will be able to pass these profits on to workers," he added.
However, copper prices rose to a new 16-month high in London on Wednesday, apparently shrugging off the end of the supply interruption in Chile, as bullish market sentiment was reinforced by upbeat new U.S. factory orders data.
The strike occurred in the run-up to the Jan. 17 presidential election run-off in Chile, the world's leading copper producer. The government was seen as keen to defuse the protest for fear it could hurt its trailing candidate.
Workers accepted a revised wage deal that was more in line with that won in October by workers at BHP Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine.
Codelco's sweetened wage offer gave each worker bonuses worth around $24,000, nearly $6,000 in soft loans and salary increases of 4 percent.
Strikes and work stoppage threats have buffeted Chile in recent months as workers sought a bigger slice of windfall profits with copper prices rebounding from a steep slump in late 2008.