More than 1,000 miners at a U.S.-owned copper mine in southern Peru put down their tools on Friday morning over pay disputes, mirroring ongoing strikes in neighboring Chile.
The indefinite strike at the Cerro Verde mine, Peru’s largest copper mine, started at at 7:30 a.m. local time. Around 1,200 miners are involved in the action which has halted 95 percent of the site's production, equivalent to about 40,000 tons per month, the union said.
Miners are demanding special benefit payments to give them protection against the potential fall in copper prices. They are also asking for better working conditions and family health benefits. Initially, the strike was planned to last five days, but the union then decided to stop work indefinitely.
Zenon Mujica, secretary general of the miner’s union, said that workers want a fair share of profits. “Copper prices have improved, production has improved, but profits for workers haven't improved,” Mujica said according to Reuters.
The mine has one of the biggest copper reserves in the world and is majority owned by Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan, Inc.
Union deputy secretary general, Cesar Fernandez, said that the company had attempted to mitigate the impact of the strike by using 300-400 non-unionized workers.
The industrial action in Peru, along with an ongoing strike in the world’s largest copper mine in Escondida, Chile, has led to concerns over the price of the metal on the international market as strikes at both mines have caused the global price of copper to rise.
Workers at the Chilean mine owned by BHP Billiton said earlier in the week that they are prepared to strike for two whole months to demand a salary increase, bonuses and compliance with air quality regulations.
Peru is the world’s second largest producer of copper behind Chile.