August 15, 2018 / 5:48 AM / a year ago

Chile's Escondida says deal reached with union on new contract

FILE PHOTO: A view of the BHP Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, in northern Chile, in Antofagasta, Chile March 31, 2008. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Management at the world’s largest copper mine, Chile’s Escondida, said it struck a deal on Wednesday on a new labor contract with the union representing most of its workers.

Union officials could not be reached for immediate comment on the agreement, which could signal labor peace after last year’s historic 44-day strike at Escondida.

But the deal terms offered by mine operator BHP (BHP.AX) BLT.L must still be put to rank-and-file members of the union for a vote. Earlier on Wednesday, the union had said it was putting a planned strike on hold.

“We are pleased to have taken this step,” Patricio Vilaplana, Escondida’s vice president for corporate affairs, said in a statement.

He provided no further details, but news of the deal followed six days of government-mediated negotiations, aimed at quelling labor unrest after last year’s strike, which rocked the global copper market and dragged on Chile’s economic growth.

Negotiations continued into the early hours on Wednesday morning when Patricio Tapia, the union’s president, told Reuters the union had “received a new offer.”

The union said on Tuesday it had moved past most sticking points over a new contract with the company but would need the rest of the day to iron out remaining issues.

Reporting By Antonio de la Jara, Writing By Mitra Taj and Luc Cohen, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Tom Brown

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