Strikers at world's largest copper mine want $11,000 each - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Strikers at world's largest copper mine want $11,000 each

ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE (CNN) - A worker's strike has hit the world's largest copper mine in Chile, and has some traders worried that it will affect world-wide prices and threaten Chile's growing reputation as a stable investment.

Each worker at the mine in Northern Chile said they demand $11,000 each as a bonus for good performance in 2010 before they end their strike.

La Escondida is the largest copper mine in the world and extracts 7 percent of the world's copper.

The mine's owners, BHP Billiton, had a profit last year of $4.3 billion. Most of the 2,300 striking employees believe they deserve a bigger chunk of that.

"We will not continue to accept the current contracts or collective agreements. They were made and signed by themselves. There are court actions against them, but so far we have no answers," Raimundo Espinoza, President of the Copper Workers Federation, said.

Workers have been on strike for more than a week, and this is not a new issue. Workers of La Escondida received $9 million in 2010 collective bargaining.

Some Chilean analysts believe that the company will cede again.

"The very moment they offered 3 million pesos, that's over $6,000, to each worker, they recognized they owe money to them," Mark Kremerman, a Sun Foundation economist, said.

The workers rejected the offer. Industry players fear that if BHP agrees to all workers' demands it would set a bad precedent for negotiations at other mines.

Chilean workers have benefited from the commodities boom. Experts said the average salary for a mine worker is three times that of the national average.

If a deal is not reached, the Justice and Labor Department will be forced to weigh in. Up until today, the Chilean government has avoided taking a side.

"We hope an agreement is quickly reached in this mine. We don't need to dwell on things that are really bad for the country's development," Hernan de Solminihac, the Chilean Mines Minister, said.

Meanwhile, copper prices continue to rise. In July, the metal gained 4.6 percent - the most this year.

Copyright 2011 CNN. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly