Workers Strike at World's Largest Copper Mine

Mine produces 11% of global copper

The union representing workers at Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, announced a 24-hour strike on July 11 over modernization plans they say would amount to the start of privatization.

The strike -- the company's first in 18 years -- will halt work at a state-owned mining operation that produces 11% of the world's copper.

The nationwide strike will affect all units of the company, said Raimundo Espinoza, president of the Federation of Copper Workers, which represents 15,000 Codelco workers.

The workers are opposed to a modernization plan being implemented by company officials appointed after President Sebastian Pinera -- the first conservative to take office in Chile 20 years -- was elected last year.

The changes will lead to the loss of some 2,600 jobs, amounting to more than 10% of the workforce.

The strike will result in losses of some $40 million, the company said earlier, and is being held on the 40th anniversary of Codelco's foundation.

Codelco head Diego Hernandez denied that the modernization plans would result in the company being privatized, but acknowledged that the workers are unhappy with the changes.

The strike "is in part unease over the changes that the company has implemented and must continue carrying out," Hernandez said on July 10.

Unionized workers went on strike at sites including the giant copper mines of Chuquicamata, El Teniente and Andina.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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