Strikes at Chilean mines send copper prices sky-high

SANTIAGO, July 10, 2007 (AFP) – Copper prices soared Tuesday as labor strikes pressured some of the largest copper mines in Chile, which supplies one-third of the world’s supply of the metal. “There is a direct impact on the mine’s production. Because of the violence by a group of subcontractors, it was decided to suspend ore extraction, but we continue to operate with stocks,” said a company official who requested anonymity. A strike at the Collahuasi mine and labor unrest at state-owned Codelco helped send copper to its highest level in two months, hovering around 8,000 dollars a tonne in London on Monday and Tuesday.

It was the second day of a walkout by workers at Collahuasi, which accounts for about eight percent of Chile’s 5.3 million tonnes of copper produced annually, after talks between the union and company management broke down.

“The strike is on, indefinitely, until we sit down to talk with the company,” said Sergio Igoni, a union leader at Collahuasi, which is run by subsidiaries of the Anglo-Swiss company Xstrata and global mining giant AngloAmerican.

Collahuasi’s 700 workers are demanding an eight percent pay hike, health and social benefits, and a 22,000-dollar bo