Striking Chilean copper miner shot dead during protest

viernes 24 de julio de 2015 10:37 GYT

SANTIAGO, July 24 (Reuters) - A Chilean mining contract worker was shot dead on Friday as a labor strike against state-owned copper company Codelco stretched into its fourth day, the union representing the workers said.

The Confederation of Copper Workers, or CTC, posted a statement on its website saying that contractor Nelson Quichillao had been shot and killed while protesting near Codelco's Salvador mine in northern Chile.

The union blamed the shooting on police who had been ordered in to unblock roads.

The national police force said it would make a statement about the shooting later in the day.

The CTC has blocked roads and set up barricades at Codelco projects around the country after contract workers affiliated with the union went on strike Tuesday to demand the right to negotiate a benefits package similar to that offered to direct Codelco employees.

The CTC statement said police arrived at the site of the protest "with the clear intention of repressing, neutralizing and dispersing a legitimate demonstration, in which none of the striking workers were armed."

The CTC statement said the work stoppage would continue until a new benefits "framework agreement" is negotiated.

Codelco has suspended all operations at its Salvador mine, which last year produced 54,000 tonnes, or just under 1 percent of the company's total copper output.

Four other mines targeted by striking workers continued normal operations, Codelco said.

On Thursday the company said that the halt at Salvador was costing it about $500,000 daily and that valuable equipment had been damaged by striking workers.

Codelco said this week that increasing benefits for contract workers was "not compatible" with current market conditions. The copper price is at multi-year lows, dragged down by worries over demand in key buyer China. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Marguerita Choy)