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500-plus workers axed at BHP's Escondida

Keywords: Tags  Escondida mine, copper mine, workers dismissed, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, copper

SÃO PAULO — More than 500 contracted workers employed at the BHP Billiton-operated Escondida copper mine have been dismissed following demonstrations that took place earlier this month, according to information on Radio Universidad de Chile’s website.

Workers at the mine in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile had obstructed roads and blocked the mine’s main access route during wage protests that took place between Feb. 28 and March 3.

The BSK consortium, hired by BHP to provide workers and formed by Sigdo Koppers and Bechtel Chile, decided to dismiss the people who were involved in the demonstrations.

This corresponds to about 10 percent of the employees, which the consortium provides for projects related to Escondida, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera.

BHP declined to comment.

Escondida is the world’s largest copper mine, producing 1.07 million tonnes last year, up 31.5 percent from 2011.

In 2011, Escondida’s workers had gone on a two-week strike to demand bonus pay and protest working conditions.

The strike in that year forced Escondida to declare force majeure on its copper sales, which lasted more than one month.

Escondida is owned by BHP Billiton (57.5 percent), Rio Tinto (30 percent), Jeco Corp. (10 percent) and Jeco 2 Ltd. (2.5 percent).

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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