May 12, 2009 / 1:27 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Chile's Lomas Bayas miners agree to fresh talks

(Updates with union leader saying talks to resume)

SANTIAGO, May 11 (Reuters) - Mine workers at Xstrata’s XTA.L Lomas Bayas copper deposit in northern Chile continued to strike for a sixth day on Monday, but they agreed to resume wage talks with the company later this week.

The Lomas Bayas deposit, in Chile’s Atacama desert, has an annual output capacity of around 75,000 tonnes of copper. Chile is the world’s biggest producer of the metal.

Xstrata and representatives of the 385-member union at Lomas Bayas had their first meeting on Friday, mediated by government labor authorities, but no agreement was reached.

The two sides met again on Monday and agreed to restart salary negotiations, scheduled for Wednesday.

“We’ll continue with our strike, but we’re seeing a more positive approach now,” the president of the union, Elias Andronico, told Reuters.

He said the union’s rank and file would meet on Tuesday, ahead of the negotiations with the company.

Lomas Bayas said it has implemented a contingency plan and is using stocks to continue normal levels of cathode output, but production of ore from the mine has fallen 50 percent.

The company organized airlift transportation for food and medical supplies between the city of Antofagasta and the mine as workers have blocked access to the deposit.

Xstrata offered a raise of 4 percent over inflation, plus improvements in health and education benefits, instead of the 6 percent over inflation raise that mine workers are demanding.

The company said it was the final offer and is the best they can do due to the global financial crisis. (Reporting by Rodrigo Martinez; Writing by Alexia Vlahos and Hilary Burke)

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