Escondida strike talks delayed as union heads to Santiago

Slideshow ( 4 images )

ANTOFAGASTA, Chile (Reuters) - Renewed talks in Chile to end a week-long strike at Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, have been delayed until likely at least Saturday, the union said Wednesday.

Concerns over a prolonged stoppage at the BHP Billiton BLT.LBHP.AX-owned mine, which produced around 1 million tonnes of copper last year, have driven the copper price CMCU3 up since last month, although news of the fresh talks has helped cool the rally.

The delay is due to pre-existing agenda commitments, with the company unable to meet Wednesday and union leaders planning to visit capital Santiago on Thursday to meet with government ministers.

“We are returning on Friday so that day is not possible, but we could do Saturday, Sunday, Monday,” union leader Carlos Allendes told Reuters in Antofagasta.

BHP declined to comment but has said its “door is open” to fresh talks.

The organization of the government-mediated talks will be led by Chile’s work directorate. It could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Frances Kerry