Codelco: Chuquicamata Unaffected by Disgruntled Unions

- December 13th, 2018

Codelco has told media outlets that union actions at its second-largest mine are not impacting day-to-day operations there.

Chilean state miner Codelco has said that its Chuquicamata copper mine is operating as normal despite reports that unionized workers there have downed tools and are blocking access as of Thursday (December 13).

A company spokesperson told Reuters that the protests were not getting in the way of day-to-day operations at the mine, located in the Antofagasta region.

“We’re operating normally, and workers are entering the mine without any problem,” she said.

In a release on Wednesday (December 12), three unions operating at the mine announced that they had run out of patience with Codelco in regards to healthcare provided to workers, restructuring at the mine as it transitions to underground operations and the potential for job losses as a result.

In August, Codelco announced it had approved the underground expansion works at Chuquicamata — a project with a US$5.5-billion price tag and that would extend its operations another 50 years.

The approved changes were only slightly scaled back from previously envisaged plans.

The unions this week also claimed repeatedly that the company had not been engaging with union leadership as it prepared to carry out the works.

In a Thursday release, the unions said that they “are aware that the redesign is a necessary process for Chuquicamata, but we also know that the application must be participative and collecting the ideas born from those who know the areas best, the workers.”

According to a late November release, the underground overhaul of its Chuquicamata project was 68.9 percent complete

Producing 330,910 tonnes of copper last year, Chuquicamata is Codelco’s second-largest mine, behind El Teniente located in Central Chile, which had a 2017 run of 464,328 tonnes of copper.

The company had been ticking off negotiations with workers towards the end of 2018; announcing in early December it has signed a 36-month deal with workers at its fifth-largest mine, Ministro Hales — also located in the Antofagasta region.

Later in December, Codelco reached another agreement with workers at its Gabriela Mistral operations (Codelco’s sixth-largest mine).

The last collective agreement Codelco signed with unions at Chuquicamata was in December 2016, and was valid for 27 months.

Codelco is the world’s largest copper-producing company, with its seven producing mines declaring a 2017 output of over 1.7 million tonnes of copper.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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