SANTIAGO, Jul 25, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Members of the largest union at Chile's Escondida copper mine, which is controlled by global diversified mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU), continued their strike for a fifth consecutive day, union treasurer Jaime Tejada told Dow Jones Newswires.
Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, stands to lose some 3,000 tons of copper output for every day workers are on strike.
Members of 2,350-strong Escondida Mine Workers Union No. 1 downed their tools Thursday evening over contract demands they say have gone unmet, including an increase of their year-end bonuses.
"All production at the mine is still shut down and after talking to our lawyers over the weekend and going over the situation, we're confident that the stoppage is legal," Tejada told Dow Jones Newswires.
Over the weekend, the union said officials at Minera Escondida, the company that runs the mine, deemed the strike illegal and threatened to dismiss the workers.
Company representatives couldn't immediately comment on the matter.
According to Chilean labor laws, mine strikes are illegal if no contract negotiations are underway. There are currently no contract negotiations at Escondida.
The strike comes on the heels of Chilean state copper company Corporacion Nacional del Cobre's first general strike in 18 years earlier this month.
Most of the 16,000 staff workers at Codelco, as the state-owned company is called, walked off their posts to protest restructuring and what they see as the first steps toward privatization.
The companywide strike at Codelco, which is the world's largest copper producer, left losses of $41 million on 4,900 metric tons of lost copper production.
BHP Billiton holds a controlling 57.5% stake in Escondida, while Rio Tinto PLC (RIO, RIO.LN) holds 30%. The remaining 12.5% is held by a Japanese consortium led by Mitsubishi Corp. (MSBHY, 8058.TO).