UPDATE 1-Chile's Codelco hit by new bout of contract worker strikes

miércoles 9 de septiembre de 2015 10:31 GYT
 

(Adds mine output, context, debt issue)

SANTIAGO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - World No. 1 copper producer Codelco was hit on Wednesday by a new round of strikes by contract workers, forcing it to temporarily halt the concentrator at its massive Chuquicamata mine for security reasons after workers tried to take over the unit.

The strike is a fresh blow for the Chilean-state owned miner, which has struggled this year with labor disputes, engineering issues and bad weather on top of a six-year low in the copper price.

Codelco said contract workers were striking at its Chuquicamata, Gabriela Mistral, Salvador, Andina and El Teniente mines, but did not specify what the impact on production was.

Chuquicamata produced 340,400 tonnes of copper last year, according to figures from state copper commission Cochilco, out of Codelco's total 1.67 million. The concentrator is used to process ore.

A recent three-week strike by contractor workers across Codelco's operations forced the company to halt operations temporarily at Salvador and Ministro Hales, hitting copper production by a total of 17,000 tonnes.

That protest had appeared to be over after the workers and employers had agreed to initiate discussions, but talks broke down this week.

The news comes at a difficult time for the company. A slump in copper prices and financing crunch are making it almost impossible for Codelco to carry out its planned $25 billion five-year investment plan.

Chief Executive Nelson Pizarro said on Sunday that job cuts were taking place already at management level in Codelco, according to local newspaper La Tercera.

With only $4 billion pledged to it by the center-left government, Codelco must look for other ways of financing. On Monday IFR reported that Codelco was looking to issue a U.S. dollar benchmark 10-year bond. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Anthony Esposito; Writing by Anthony Esposito and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Nick Zieminski)