Workers at Chile’s Escondida copper mine threaten to strike


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SANTIAGO — Workers at BHP’s sprawling Escondida copper mine in northern Chile threatened on Wednesday to go on strike over what they described as safety concerns, the mine’s union said.

Unionized workers say that Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, has not responded to repeated complaints about potential safety risks.

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Chile’s President Gabriel Boric said last month he wants to ratify an International Labor Organization convention on health and safety in mines, after two workers died on a mining construction project in July and a giant sinkhole more recently opened up near a copper mine.

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In a statement the union said it contacted “Minera Escondida-BHP demanding the resolution of multiple non-compliances, infractions and sustained violations, requesting the start of talks to resolve them promptly.”

The union added it “will hold a vote that concludes tonight, to decide on the start of partial strikes and then an indefinite strike, if the situation is not resolved.”

If the demands are not resolved, workers plan stoppages in 12-hour shifts on Sep. 12 and 14, and then they would initiate an indefinite strike.

Escondida said in a statement that it has complied with all its labor and contractual obligations and called the potential strike “unlawful” because the law establishes “clear and peaceful” mechanisms to resolve disputes.

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“Regarding the alleged unsafe conditions in the operation, Escondida BHP clarifies that in a preventive manner and in accordance with its protocols, it temporarily closed the affected areas” it said, adding that it has already reported these measures to the mining regulator Sernageomin.

Other productive areas “are operating normally,” the company said.

Escondida workers in March also threatened a work stoppage amid claims of breaches in their collective contract, something the company denied. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Aurora Ellis)


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