May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Production at Anglo American Plc and Xstrata Plc's Collahuasi copper mine in Chile, the world's fourth biggest, was halted as contract workers extended a strike and the mine's operator abandoned talks, calling the strike unlawful.
Collahuasi production was suspended for safety concerns, said Cia. Minera Dona Ines de Collahuasi, which operates the mine for Anglo American and Xstrata.
The strike may spread to other Chilean mines this year as contract workers protest for better pay and conditions, said Cristian Cuevas, who led strikes in 2008 that cost state-owned Codelco almost $100 million. BHP Billiton Ltd., Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and Rio Tinto Group are among the companies that own copper mines in Chile, the world's biggest producer of the metal.
"The world of the contract workers is still about discrimination," Cuevas, who arrived in the northwestern city of Iquique today to lead the protests, said in an interview yesterday. "Discontent has been brewing beneath the surface and it will manifest itself suddenly in situations like these."
About 700 company employees have been unable to leave Collahuasi since the strike started May 7 because about 1,500 contract workers are manning a picket line, Ricardo Arellano, a representative for the miners, said in a telephone interview today.
Mining Minister Laurence Golborne called on the protesters to let the trapped workers leave because of food shortages, he said at an event in Santiago today.
"Negotiations have been ongoing, but an important condition to advance on these negotiations is that the workers be allowed to move freely," Golborne told reporters.
Collahuasi produced 535,000 metric tons of copper last year, the company said in today's statement. Anglo American and Xstrata each own 44 percent of the mine in northern Chile. A group headed by Mitsui & Co. owns the remaining stake.
Copper futures for July delivery fell 2.15 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $3.2065 a pound on the Comex in New York.