SANTIAGO (AFP) – The Chilean government stepped into an escalating labor dispute at the world’s biggest copper mine after its operator, Anglo-Australian resources giant BHP Billiton, shut operations and broke off negotiations with striking unionized workers.
BHP Billiton said it had been forced to close the Escondida Mine in northern Chile because of safety concerns over actions taken by striking workers and would pursue legal actions against union workers who blocked access roads to the mine.
“This is illegal pressure,” Pedro Marin, a spokesman for the striking miners, told AFP. He accused BHP Billiton of trying to “scare” workers.
With the crippling strike in its 12th day and negotiations ended, President Michelle Bachelet stepped into the breach, naming Labor Minister Osvaldo Andrade to mediate in the dispute.