Codelco says Chile mines mostly normal as strike continues
SANTIAGO, July 29 (Reuters) - Top copper producer Codelco said the majority of its mines in Chile were operating normally on Wednesday, although a sometimes violent strike by contract workers continues.
Contract workers affiliated with the Confederation of Copper Workers, or CTC, have been on strike since July 21. They are demanding the right to negotiate a benefits package similar to the one offered to direct employees.
On Tuesday, state-run Codelco's Chuquicamata mine, one of its largest, was temporarily halted as protesters blocked roads and threw stones at vehicles.
Codelco, the world's No.1 copper producer, said Wednesday that seven of its eight projects "were continuing to operate and produce normally".
The exception is Salvador, its smallest mine, which has been occupied since the weekend by the strikers.
Damage sustained to its property by the ongoing protests across its projects includes vehicles set alight and the burning of a piece of mining equipment worth $1.6 million at its Gabriel Mistral mine, Codelco said.
The CTC said Wednesday that more than 1,500 supporters had blocked access roads to Chuquicamata, Ministro Hales, Radomiro Tomic, and Gabriela Mistral, and that the projects were only half-operational.
The union says it will not stop its action until Codelco agrees to renegotiate a 'framework agreement' to improve contract workers' benefits.
Codelco has refused to negotiate directly with the union, saying responsibility lies with the various companies that employ the contractors. It also says any improvements are unrealistic at a time when the copper price is at multi-year lows.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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