Metals News
Chile Collahuasi Union Sees Mine Ops Normal Monday
industry news
May 17,2010

SANTIAGO, May 15 (Reuters) - Chile's giant Collahuasi copper mine will likely resume normal operations on Monday amid a subcontractor strike in its ninth day, a union leader said on Saturday, adding that the mine was not yet extracting mineral.

Juan Antonio Barraza, a leader of the union that represents full=time staff at the mine, said workers would gradually bring machinery back online.

"They are going to gradually restart the equipment," Barraza said. "(Operations) will likely normalize on Monday."

Collahuasi spokeswoman Bernardita Fernandez reiterated the mine expected operations to return to normal "in coming days," but gave no target date.

Fernandez said a declaration of force majeure, a contract clause that enables it to default on delivery obligations, which the company announced on Wednesday, remained in place.

"We are in the ramp-up phase, but there is no estimated date yet (for a return to normal operations)," she said.

She declined to give an estimate for output losses due to the disruption. The Collahuasi mine produces 3.3 percent of the world's mined copper.

Collahuasi resumed limited operations on Wednesday after subcontractors lifted a blockade to the mine but continued their protest elsewhere, with the next round of talks scheduled for Monday.

Subcontractors left the mine on Tuesday night to avoid clashes with police. 

The subcontractors, who have continued their protest from the city of Iquique, have agreed to talks with the company on Monday mediated by local authorities in the far northern region of Tarapaca, and say their strike would continue until then.

Collahuasi, which produced 535,000 tonnes of copper last year, was forced to halt operations last Saturday, a day after hundreds of subcontractors blocked access to the mine with burning tires and rocks to demand better working conditions and pay.

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