(Recasts with mine back in operation)
By Antonio De la Jara
SANTIAGO, Nov 28 (Reuters) - BHP´s Spence copper mine was operating normally again following a union strike announced earlier on Wednesday, the company said.
Union President Ronald Salcedo told Reuters early on Wednesday that about 50 workers had been laid off, in addition to eight supervisors, raising safety concerns for the mine’s remaining workers and prompting the walk-off.
BHP later confirmed in a statement that it had fired 57 workers, including mine operators, supervisors and maintenance workers, but said the mine was again operating normally.
The Spence deposit near the Chilean coastal city of Antofagasta is BHP’s second largest in Chile, after its sprawling Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest.
BHP has said it will spend nearly $2.5 billion to extend the life of the Spence deposit by more than 50 years, creating up to 5,000 jobs and bringing new output online in 2021.
“These layoffs are strange given that costs are under control at the mine and even more so given that the company is pushing the upgrade project, which should mean contracting more workers,” Salcedo said.
BHP said the layoffs were the result of a review of “its operational situation, processes and the resources necessary to conduct its operations safely and sustainably over time.”
Spence produced 198,600 tonnes of copper in 2017.
Reporting by Antonio De la Jara Writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Edmund Blair and Leslie Adler