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Collahuasi Talks to Continue at Strike-Hit Chile Mine

Wage talks between union leaders and company representatives at Anglo American Plc and Xstrata Plc’s Collahuasi venture will extend into a fourth day in a bid to end a strike at the world’s third-biggest copper mine.

“Negotiations will continue tomorrow,” union President Manuel Munoz told reporters as he left the negotiating room at a hotel in the northern Chilean city of Iquique.

The Collahuasi strike became the longest recorded at a major Chilean copper mine after surpassing a 26-day stoppage at BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Escondida in 2006. While the company is using non-union workers and contractors to help run the mine, prospects of an output cut helped drive copper to a London Metal Exchange record last month.

A third day of mediated negotiations ended today without an agreement. Earlier workers protested in downtown Iquique, hurling rocks at police vans and lighting fires.

“Collahuasi deeply regrets the riots in Iquique while the negotiating team is seated at the table in search of a solution to the strike,” Bernardita Fernandez, a company spokeswoman, said by e-mail.

Company and union representatives returned to the negotiating table Nov. 29 after individual negotiations failed to garner enough acceptances under Chilean law to end the strike. Chile’s Work Inspectorate issued a resolution last week for talks to resume.

Tear Gas

Police in Iquique fired water cannons and tear gas today at a group of more than 50 protestors who were dressed in the union’s official black jackets and chanted “miners of Chile.” Workers protested because the company continues to send non-union staff to operate the mine, the union said on its website.

Collahuasi produced 535,000 tons of copper last year, or 3.5 percent of global output, according to Standard Bank Plc. Global copper supply may tighten in the short term if the strike doesn’t end soon, Commerzbank AG said in a report. The mine continues to operate normally amid the strike, Fernandez said.

Copper for delivery in three months rose 3.3 percent to $8,633 a metric ton in London at 12:22 p.m. New York time.

Anglo American and Xstrata each own 44 percent of Collahuasi. A group led by Mitsui & Co. holds the remainder.

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