February 13, 2017 / 1:21 AM / 7 months ago

Hooded vandals attack Chile's Escondida mine during strike

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - More than 300 people wearing hoods vandalised property at the world’s biggest copper mine, BHP Billiton’s Escondida in Chile, and forced contract workers to stop work during an ongoing strike, management said on Sunday.

The incident, late on Saturday, forced the company to evacuate one of its camps to protect personnel, the mine’s management said.

The strike had already halted output at the mine and forced BHP to declare force majeure.

The vandals set off fire alarms and cut the electricity in a security booth, leaving cameras and a system for verifying entry to the mine inoperable, the company said.

Escondida “will make use of all resources necessary to impose pertinent legal action to guarantee the security of all workers,” it said in a statement.

Escondida is majority-controlled by BHP, with Rio Tinto and Japan’s JECO also holding stakes.

Workers in the 2,500-member Escondida Union No. 1 downed tools early on Thursday after collective wage talks with the company failed, beginning a strike that threatens to disrupt supplies of one of the most widely used industrial metals.

Escondida produced 1.15 million tonnes of copper in 2015, or 6 percent of global output that year.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Sandra Maler

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