* Recommends industry collaborate on driverless mining
* Challenges include lower quality ore, labor relations
By Barbara Lewis
SANTIAGO, April 4 Chile's copper industry needs
to adopt new technologies and improve labor and community
relations to keep its global standing, a senior BHP Billiton
executive said on Tuesday.
Chile, which accounts for 30 percent of the world's copper
supply, is grappling with falling productivity because much of
its best quality ore has already been mined.
"In Chile, mining is indispensable - we are one country with
mining, and a different one without it," said Danny Malchuk, a
Chilean who is president of operations at BHP's Minerals
In a speech to CRU World Copper Conference in Santiago, he
said Chilean mining sector's "massive challenges" include
relations with labor.
BHP is still smarting from a bruising battle with its union
at Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, after a 43-day
strike which ended in late March and cost the company around $1
billion in losses.
Malchuk, who is based in Santiago, recommended Chile's
mining companies collaborate to adopt driverless vehicles and
other innovations and be open to employing technology from any
"If we don't take a proactive approach, the copper industry
in Chile will reduce its global position in the next 25 years in
line with the diminishing quality of our assets," he warned.
In addition, Malchuk called for public-private partnerships
to work on issues such as training and relations with
communities where mines are based and more diversity, which is a
flagship policy for BHP.
The United States was the world's biggest copper producer
until its ores declined in quality and Chile took over the
number one position in 1982.
Malchuk said the United States still has a copper industry
because it incorporated technology that boosted worker
productivity and cut costs.
Copper accounts for more than half of Chile's exports.
The importance of the industry was underscored on Monday
when the country's central bank said the Escondida strike would
knock an entire percentage point off gross domestic product
growth in the first quarter.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis Editing by W Simon)