World’s top copper mine suspends projects over strike


SANTIAGO: A lengthy strike at the world’s largest copper mine, BHP Billiton’s Escondida in Chile, forced the Anglo-Australian mining giant to suspend plans Wednesday for two major investments there.

BHP Billiton, which owns a 57.5 percent stake in the mine, said its plans to build new desalination and concentration plants there were on hold because of the strike.

The company said in a statement the strike had made it impossible for contractors to resume work on the two facilities.

Some 2,500 workers at Escondida, a sprawling mine complex in the Atacama desert, went on strike on February 9 demanding higher salaries.

The 42-day shutdown has now tied the record for the longest mining strike in Chilean history, set in 2009 at BHP’s Spence mine.

With no breakthrough in sight, it looks set to break the record Thursday.

The miners union has said it is prepared to stay on strike for two months.

The Chilean government estimates the strike has so far dented copper production by 110,000 tonnes.
Escondida normally supplies some five percent of global copper output—927,000 tonnes a year.


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