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Venezuela's Ferrominera halts mine operations on workers strike: sources

Sao Paulo — Venezuela's sole iron ore producer Ferrominera Orinoco put mine operations on hold at the end of last week as a result of a workers strike, market sources said Monday.

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The strike began Thursday and is currently ongoing, according to sources. The reason for the strike is wage discussion.

FMO has not responded to requests for comment.

The company was producing at very low rates before the strike, affecting the hot-briquetted iron and steel sectors in the country, market sources had said in early September. The company's output in its four mines -- San Isidro, Altamira, Los Barrancos and Cerro Bolivar -- has been recorded at its lowest so far in its history. In the first seven months of 2018, FMO produced 2.7 million mt of iron ore.

The company is projected to end the year with around 4 million mt.

By comparison, FMO produced around 7 million mt of iron ore fines in 2016 and 2017, which was a drop of 30% from previous years' levels.

The company is currently operating its pellets plant at around 25% of its installed capacity of 3.3 million mt/year. No output for the year has been disclosed.

Ferrominera also plans to expand its annual iron ore production capacity to 40 million mt from the current 25 million mt within the next three or four years, as a result of planned railway construction.

It also has an installed capacity of 3.3 million mt/year of pellets and is building a second pellets line with 3 million mt/year capacity. The company's installed capacity is 1 million mt/year of hot-briquetted iron.

--Guilherme Baida,

--Edited by Jennifer Pedrick,