UPDATE 1-Contract workers end protest at Escondida, operations normal
SANTIAGO, March 2 (Reuters) - Contract workers seeking better wages and benefits lifted their roadblocks late on Saturday at the world's No. 1 copper mine, Chile's Escondida, according to the mine's union, which added that operations were not affected.
"The conflict has ended," union leader Salomon Alcaino told Reuters. "Everything is normal."
Alcaino said some miners could not get to their shifts on Saturday because the workers had blocked access to the deposit.
Neither contract workers nor majority-owner BHP Billiton were immediately available for comment on operations at the mine that produced about 1.076 million tonnes of copper last year.
The labor action by the contract workers, who work mostly in construction, came on the heels of approval of a new contract for the mine's workers in January, which included a record-high bonus and benefits.
Escondida's union stunned the copper market in 2011 by staging a two-week work stoppage, sending the mine's output tumbling.
Labor action has increased in recent years on the back of high copper prices.
Alcaino said earlier on Saturday that operations were halted, but later retracted that comment.
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