It looks like a deal may have been reached between workers at Chile’s Escondida mine, the world’s largest copper mine, and mine operator BHP Billiton. Union spokesman Carlos Allende told Reuters the first workers to review the proposed deal were in favor of signing the contract. The deal still has to be put to a vote, but management at Escondida said most of the workers have agreed to the contract.
This comes after government-mediated negotiations were initiated to squash a potential strike at the mine, like the 44-day strike held in the second quarter of 2017 that was blamed for an 8.6% decrease in annual mine output, a 21% year-over-year decline in refined copper output by minority owner Rio Tinto, global copper price increases, and a year-over-year decline in total national annual copper production.
The union wanted BHP Billiton to improve its offer and asked for a signing bonus almost double what the company offered, as well as a 5% salary increase. It planned to strike on August 14, but said it was going to put it on hold, Reuters reported.
With the company averting a strike and thus avoiding any supply disruptions, copper prices have continued to fall. On Wednesday, copper prices hit their lowest level in 13 months. The price of copper for May delivery came down at $2.55 per pound or $5,622 a ton on the New York Mercantile Exchange, registering four straight sessions of declines and reaching its lowest level since July 2017. Copper prices also fell around 0.2% on the London Metal Exchange (LME) to $6,036 per ton.