SANTIAGO, May 17 (Reuters) - Chile's giant Collahuasi copper mine is nearly back to normal output despite a subcontractor strike, the full-time workers union told Reuters
on Monday, but the labor unrest continues to fan fears protests could spread to other mines and rally copper prices.
"It is practically back to normal," said the union's president Manuel Munoz, adding that subcontractors are not key for output operations at the mine perched 4,400 metres (14,500 feet) above sea level in the Andes mountains. "Mine and processing plant's operations were not really affected by the protests or strike."
Collahuasi mine spokeswoman Bernardita Fernandez said she had no information about complete normalization, but that the mine continued to ramp up production.
Collahuasi, which produces 3.3 percent of the world's mined copper, resumed limited operations on Wednesday, a day after subcontractors lifted a blockade to the mine but continued their protest elsewhere.
The next round of talks is scheduled to start later Monday as the strike enters its 11th day, the mine operator and subcontractors said.
Barclays Capital said in a report to clients that the strike "will have contributed to a minimum loss of close to 14,000 tonnes."
However, the supply disruption was overshadowed by Europe's debt woes, which sent copper CMCU3 to its lowest since early May on Monday.
A deal in talks would help defuse labor tensions at the mine, which is jointly owned by global miners Xstrata (XTA.L) and Anglo American (AAL.L). Subcontractors demand better working conditions.
The protest, which shut down Collahuasi for several days earlier this month, has fanned fears of contagion at other mines where thousands of subcontractors do jobs that range from digging to personnel transportation and cooking.
Tensions at the mine could also complicate wage talks with the 16,000-member full-time worker union whose contracts expire in November. The Collahuasi mine produced 535,000 tonnes of copper last year.