Mining and Heavy Industries, Staffing, Recruitment & Training

Escondida strikes end, but more problems loom

Copper has slumped in price.

Workers have returned to BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine in Chile, but reports from within the company reportedly have the company looking down the barrel of further drama in 18 months.

According to Reuters, insiders at the mine believe the recent historic strike action could have cost the mining giant as much as $1 billion.

The 2500-member union at the copper mine decided to end the 43-day strike, utilising a legal option to extend their existing deal by 18 months.

But the result is said to have further soured the relationship between the miners and their employer.

“We regret that the collective negotiation process ended this way,” the mine’s president, Marcelo Castillo said on Friday, per Reuters.

“This new scenario obliges us to revise our plans, our operating model, and our structures to face this reality, which evidently was not what we wanted.”

The union reportedly believed Castillo’s comments to be a thinly-veiled threat of layoffs, saying “if the company wants to lose another $1 billion, we are ready to fight”.

Experts have also suggested that in 18 months, when the sides again attempt to resolve their differences, the political climate will be far less favourable to BHP.

Legislation, which comes into effect next month, will reportedly give the union more tools and options in what will likely be protracted negotiations.

“This round of Escondida negotiations was very atypical because it was the last before the labour reform,” Chilean mining consultant Juan Carlos Guajardo told Reuters.

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