Strike at Peru's Cerro Verde drags on as talks collapse

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Talks with striking workers at Freeport-McMoRan's Cerro Verde copper mine in Peru broke down as the stoppage entered a seventh day, a union official said.

About 1,300 miners, who walked off the job March 10 to pressure for safer working conditions and a larger share of profits, will probably continue the strike until at least next week, union general secretary Zenón Mujica told BNamericas.

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Cerro Verde, Peru's largest copper mine, is operating at 50% of capacity as the company has hired extra personnel in addition to its 300 non-union workers, Mujica said.

The labor ministry this week declared the strike illegal, Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde said, adding the stoppage has not had a major impact on operations.

"Cerro Verde will continue to maintain constructive discussions with the union and company workers in order to attend their concerns," it said in a corporate filing to securities regulator SMV.

The strike will curtail GDP growth this quarter, according to consultancy firms such as Capital Economics. Workers last staged a strike at the mine in 2011.

Peru is the world's second largest copper and silver producer.

Copper prices have jumped this year due to an ongoing strike at BHP Billiton's Escondida mine in Chile and an operations halt at Freeport's Grasberg mine in Indonesia due to a government ban on exports.

The 360,000t/d Cerro Verde mine, where Freeport completed a US$4.6bn expansion at the end of 2015, produced 1.1Blb (almost 500,000t) copper and 9,580t molybdenum in 2016, according to the energy and mines ministry (MEM). The mine mainly exports to Asian smelters, with a smaller proportion of sales going to North America, Europe and South America.

The mine, which also produces silver, is owned by Freeport (53.56%), Sumitomo (21%), Buenaventura (19.58%) and other minority shareholders (5.86%).