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Bitter strike hits world's biggest copper mine

Friday, February 10, 2017 - 01:13

Workers gearing up for what could be a prolonged strike at the world's leading copper mine, BHP Billiton's Escondida, are stockpiling rations and supplies to survive the searing sun and bone-chilling nights of Chile's northern high-desert. Laura Frykberg reports.

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It's a challenging climate to stage a protest, scorching days and freezing nights. But these copper miners say their work environment is just as tough. They are employees at the world's largest copper mine - Escondida in Chile. On strike in the Atacama desert for sixty days - until the company agrees to better worker benefits. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) PRESIDENT OF MINING SYNDICATE, PATRICIO TAPIA, SAYING: "At some point we will have to sit down and convince the company to understand that the workers' union is very strong, and that the second workers syndicate of miners in Escondida is also strong. We will take this to the end." A fall in copper prices - driven by lower demand from China - has had a major impact on Chile's mining industry. It's meant Escondida - which produced 6 percent of the world's copper in 2015 - has had to cut costs. The last labour dispute saw owners BHP Billiton offer workers the highest bonuses ever in Chile's mining industry Back then the price of copper was higher though. The change in conditions could alter the outcome this time around.

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Bitter strike hits world's biggest copper mine

Friday, February 10, 2017 - 01:13