LIMA, March 23 Freeport-McMoRan Inc said
Thursday that a nearly two-week strike has not materially
impacted production levels at its Cerro Verde copper mine in
Peru, the country's biggest, though the union said output has
been cut in half.
The union is preparing to skirt an order by the labor
ministry to return to work by formally declaring an end to its
current strike on Friday and immediately starting a new one,
said Cesar Fernandez, the union's deputy secretary general.
"Tomorrow the strike ends at 7:30 am and the new strike
starts at 7:30 am," Fernadez said.
The move should allow the union to extend the strike for up
to another month as workers demand better health care for family
members and a bigger share of profits, Fernandez said.
The strike's continuation comes as Freeport's Grasberg mine
in Indonesia resumed copper production this week following a
more than monthlong stoppage over export rights.
Another strike that halted output at BHP Billiton's
Escondida mine in Chile is ending.
Freeport declined to say how it has avoided material impacts
on production from the strike.
Fernandez said some 1,300 workers out of 1,650 are taking
part in the strike, but that hundreds of contract workers were
hired to fill in for them.
Cerro Verde became Peru's biggest copper mine following an
expansion in 2015, allowing it to churn out nearly 500,000
tonnes of copper last year.
But as copper prices and production levels have risen,
workers say they have not seen any improvement in benefits.
Talks this week between union leaders and management and
mediated by the labor ministry did not produce any agreement,
but another meeting will be held on Friday, said Fernandez.
Freeport said it continues to engage in "constructive
discussions" with the union under the current labor agreement,
and has asked all workers to return to work.
Freeport owns a 53.56 percent stake in Cerro Verde. Sumitomo
Metal Mining Company Ltd has a 21 percent stake in the
mine, and Buenaventura 19.58 percent.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Dan