Chilean Workers Call Strike at World’s Largest Copper Mine

Workers at the world’s biggest copper mine, in northern Chile, announced on Tuesday a three-day strike next week to protest against “serious security incidents” at the Escondida mine.

More than 2,400 miners will go on strike from Monday to Wednesday, the Escondida Mining union said in a statement.

The decision is due to “serious safety incidents, such as three fires, in which we could confirm that the company had not adopted the prevention and safety measures that are required of it,” said the statement.

Chile is the world’s largest copper producer with annual production of 5.6 million tons, close to a third of the entire global output.

Escondida is owned by Anglo-Australian giant BHP.

When workers at the mine went on a record 44-day strike in 2017 — the longest in Chile’s mining history — BHP lost $740 million, contributing to a 1.3 percent decline in the country’s GDP.

A threatened strike in August 2021 was averted with the signing of a new collective agreement, as local media said each worker had secured almost $27,000 each in bonuses for working during the pandemic.

Escondida, which is an open air mine located in Antofagusta, produces close to 1.1 million tons of copper a year.

Workers claimed that recent incidents had exposed them “to serious risks” whilst also accusing BHP of anti-union practices and the “violation of fundamental rights.”

The union accused the company, which has not commented, of refusing to seek solutions to their complaints.

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