SANTIAGO, Aug 03, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Union leaders and management at Chilean copper mine Escondida are scheduled to meet Wednesday in the hopes of ending the now 13-day-old strike at the mine, a union leader said.
Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, accounts for 7% of annual global output and has been losing 3,000 metric tons of copper a day on the work stoppage.
Last week, it declared force majeure on its copper concentrate shipments, releasing it from meeting contract terms due to circumstances beyond its control.
The sole union at the mine is seeking a 4 million peso ($8,730) bonus due to the company's strong fiscal year results, while the company recently offered CLP2.6 million. The 2,375-member union is also demanding improved labor conditions and benefits, but the bonus has been the sticking point of recent talks.
Union treasurer Jaime Tejada said talks were scheduled for later Wednesday, noting that it was unclear if union members would immediately vote on any new offer.
Chile's copper industry is closely watching the Escondida strike to see if it will set a precedent regarding nonregulated negotiations.
According to Chilean labor laws, unions can walk off the job when regulated contract negotiations fail.
A regional labor office recently ruled the strike illegal as there is no regulated collective bargaining process.
Global diversified miner BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU) has a controlling 57.5% stake in Escondida and operates the mine. Rio Tinto PLC (RIO, RIO.LN) holds 30% and the remaining 12.5% is held by a Japanese consortium led by Mitsubishi Corp. (MSBHY, 8058.TO).
The open-pit mine located in northern Chile produces around 1.1 million metric tons of copper a year in the form of concentrates and to a lesser degree, cathodes, which are large sheets of 99.99% pure copper