(Updates with union comments on impact on output and scheduled
meeting Monday with the company, adds comment from Freeport)
LIMA, March 10 Workers at Peru's top copper
mine, Freeport-McMoRan's Cerro Verde, started
an indefinite strike on Friday that halted 95 percent of
production of about 40,000 tonnes per month, the union said.
But a dispute over worker demands might be solved at a
scheduled meeting between union officials and the mine's
management on Monday, said Zenon Mujica, the secretary general
of the union.
Workers want better family health benefits and a bigger
share of the mine's profits, which Mujica said have risen on
better copper prices and higher output following an expansion.
"Copper prices have improved, production has improved, but
profits for workers haven't improved," said Mujica.
Freeport said in a statement that Cerro Verde was "operating
and continues to engage in constructive discussions with the
Union and the company's employees to address their concerns."
The company declined further comment.
The stoppage is the latest disruption to global copper
supplies to put pressure on prices, amid a
monthlong strike at BHP Billiton's Escondida
mine in Chile and a dispute over export rights at Freeport's
Grasberg mine in Indonesia.
Nearly all of the 1,300 unionized workers at Cerro Verde
downed tools at 7:30 a.m. (1230 GMT), said Mujica.
The company had planned to mitigate the impacts of the
strike using 300-400 non-unionized workers who do not normally
work in areas essential to production, said the union's deputy
secretary general, Cesar Fernandez.
Freeport-McMoRan owns a 53.56-percent stake in Cerro Verde,
which more than doubled its production of copper to nearly
500,000 tonnes of copper last year after a major expansion.
Sumitomo Metal Mining Company Ltd controls a
21-percent stake in the mine, and Buenaventura
has 19.58 percent.
The Cerro Verde union had initially scheduled a five-day
strike but voted this week to stop work indefinitely, Fernandez
(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Lisa Von
Ahn and Sandra Maler)