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article imageSurprise strike shuts down world's largest copper mine in Chile

By Ken Hanly     Aug 14, 2013 in Business
Santiago - Workers at the largest copper mine in the world, Escondida in Chile began a surprise strike this morning. Workers are demanding better working conditions and pay.
The Escondida mine is controlled by global giant BHP Billiton. Rio Tinto has a 30 per cent interest however.The strike was initially planned to be a one day strike but union representative Marcelo Tapia said that the situation would be evaluated before the time period expired. The strike may be extended he said if the demands of the workers were not met. He said: "[All operations] have been halted.It's due to a variety of issues that the company has not been responding to." There are 2,500 workers at the mine according to a VOA article.. An article in Fox News puts the number of workers at 4,800. Workers at two other mines also run by BHP Billiton also joined the action which began at 8 in the morning local time. Tapia warned that if issues were not resolved the strike could continue indefinitely: "We're not ruling out other scenarios that we'll be analyzing,This could turn into an indefinite stoppage."
The Escondida mine produced about 1.1 million tons of copper last year about 20% of Chile's total copper production. The strike is happening in spite of the fact that the union agreed to a new contract last January.
Chile is the top copper producer in the world. Revenues from copper make up about a third of all government revenue. Among the complaints of workers were shifts that went beyond twelve hours, omnipresent surveillance cameras, and other labor conditions. In 2011 the workers also staged a strike that lasted for two weeks and severely disrupted production. BHP Billiton has not yet commented on the stirke.
BHP Billiton with headquarters in Australia is the world's largest mining company as of 2011 in terms of revenues. The 2011 strike is discussed on the appended video.
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