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Wave of protests hit Chile copper mines

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Wave of protests hit Chile copper mines

Santiago, Chile — The wave of protests in Chile has begun to affect its giant mining industry, which produces a third of the world's copper, unions and companies said Wednesday.

Several mineworkers' unions, including those at state mining firm Codelco, have joined a two-day nationwide strike called by union federation CUT earlier this week.

Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, said that the protests had halted production at its Andina mine while the Salvador mining and smelting complex and its Ventanas smelter and refinery were operating at minimum levels to protect the installations.

The Andina mine produced 195,531 mt of copper last year while Salvador produced 60,840 mt.

But the company's other divisions, including the giant Chuquicamata, El Teniente and Radomiro Tomic mines, were operating normally.

Meanwhile, a strike by workers at Antofagasta's Antucoya mine over pay and conditions entered its second week Wednesday.

In a statement, the company said that civil unrest could reduce production by approximately 5,000 mt.

The protests in the mining industry are the latest in a wave of civil unrest against rising living costs throughout South America's richest country.

Late Tuesday, President Sebastian Pinera unveiled a package of reforms, including higher pensions, an increase in the minimum wage and lower electricity and medical bills, in a bid to quell the unrest but the protests have continued.

In a statement, Federation of Copper Workers, which represents Codelco's unionized workforce, said it would decide whether to continue the protest at a meeting October 25.

Chile is the world's largest copper exporter with production hitting a record 5.8 million mt last year.

-- Tom Azzopardi,

-- Edited by Pankti Mehta,