(Adds details on Codelco management, background on strike)
SANTIAGO, April 10 Top global copper producer
Codelco's massive mines returned to normal operations on
Wednesday morning after the end of a 24-hour companywide strike
to demand improved job security and better safety, Mining
Minister Hernan de Solminihac said via Twitter.
The stoppage is estimated to have cost state miner Codelco
less than 5,000 tonnes in lost output.
But it comes on the heels of other mine and port strikes,
raising the specter of a steady series of labor actions as
unions seek to make their demands heard ahead of Chile's
November presidential election.
Private miners did not participate in the strike, but some
workers delayed their shifts on Tuesday. Codelco's union bosses
timed the work stoppage to make a splash during the
international copper industry's CESCO/CRU conference in
Santiago, the world's biggest gathering dedicated to the red
Industry sources say 2013 may be an especially tricky year
on the labor front for Codelco, which mines about 11 percent of
the world's copper. The company is in the midst of an ambitious
investment plan to lift annual production to more than 2 million
tonnes by the start of the next decade.
But the revamp has led to layoffs, and workers fear more
will lose their jobs or get fewer benefits during the
transformation of the company's massive but depleted mines.
Tensions between the unions and Chief Executive Officer
Thomas Keller, a former retail executive seen as a tough
negotiator, have run high since he took the reins of the company
Union leaders accuse Keller of arrogance, while Codelco says
grinding production to a halt is not helping the company battle
soaring costs and the reduction of its ore grade.
While many observers stressed the stoppage had strong
political undercurrents, significant issues in Chile's mining
industry persist. Workers are upset about the increases of
subcontracted employees and accidents as well as potential job
losses as major mines undergo restructuring.
Workers at Codelco's massive Radomiro Tomic mine staged a
work stoppage in late March to protest the death of a worker in
a landslide. They said they had warned management that the area
was dangerous. The general manager resigned after days of
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)