Codelco says protectors damage key Ministro Hales mine equipment
SANTIAGO Aug 4 (Reuters) - Chilean state copper company Codelco said important mine equipment at its newest project Ministro Hales had been seriously damaged by striking contract workers who seized control of the site this week, potentially affecting output.
Contract workers affiliated with the Confederation of Copper Workers, or CTC, have been on strike across Codelco's operations since July 21 and have occupied the company's Ministro Hales mine in northern Chile, as well as its smaller Salvador complex.
The contractors - cleaners, drivers, and other workers, including some miners - are demanding the right to negotiate a benefits package similar to the one offered to Codelco's direct employees.
The protesters at Ministro Hales had in recent hours cut an overland belt used to transport the mine's ore, Codelco said on Tuesday evening.
"This equipment, which was loaded with ore, is fundamental for the entire production chain, so its halt could lead to a daily production loss of around 70 tonnes of refined copper," the company said in a statement.
Ministro Hales, world no.1 copper producer Codelco's newest mine, had production of around 141,000 tonnes of copper last year out of Chile's total 5.7 million tonnes.
Codelco has called the Chile-wide stoppage illegal and said it is the responsibility of the companies that employ the contractors to agree any change in benefits.
It said the CTC did not attend a meeting it organized with the contract companies on Tuesday, at which it said it would mediate. (Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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