(Adds quote, background on strike)
SANTIAGO Feb 21 Chile's Escondida copper mine,
the world's largest, said on Tuesday it would not begin
replacing striking workers for at least 30 days into the work
stoppage to show its commitment to dialogue.
The mine can legally hire temporary workers after 15 days of
a strike. Tuesday marked 13 days since unionized workers walked
off the job at Escondida, which is controlled by BHP Billiton
Waiting to replace workers means there will be no production
from Escondida for at least another two weeks if the strike
continues. That will likely push copper prices, which
have already hit 20-month highs on supply concerns, even higher.
Government-mediated talks on Monday failed to get workers
and representatives of the mine to commit to a schedule of new
The company and union are far apart on a number of issues,
including shift pattern changes, the size of a one-time bonus,
and BHP's wish to give new workers lower benefits.
It was unclear for days if the meeting would even take place
as BHP blamed striking workers for interfering with
non-unionized service employees on their shift changes.
Escondida is majority-controlled by BHP with minority
interests held by Rio Tinto and Japanese
companies including Mitsubishi Corp The mine produced
about 5 percent of the world's copper in 2016.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Writing by Caroline Stauffer;
Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney)