Freeport Peru Workers May Have to End Strike in Mid-November

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s striking Peruvian workers may have to return to work by mid-November after the Andean country’s government set a deadline for a solution, a union official said.

Workers at Freeport’s Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde SAA copper mine, who have been on strike since Sept. 29, may be forced by the regional government to accept arbitration if no agreement is reached by the second week of November, William Camacho, a union official, said in an interview today. Under Peruvian law, employees must return to work during the arbitration process.

“We want the government to settle this dispute as we don’t plan further talks with the company,” Camacho said in a telephone interview from Lima. “It’s not in anyone’s interest to undergo a drawn-out arbitration.”

Workers in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Indonesia have downed tools at copper, gold and zinc mines this year to seek better working conditions and a bigger share of record profits after metal prices surged. About 8,000 workers at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia have been on strike since Sept. 15.

Eric Kinneberg, a spokesman for the Phoenix-based company, didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment. The stoppage hasn’t “materially” affected copper and molybdenum output, Kinneberg said in an Oct. 25 e-mail.

Freeport rose 0.1 percent to $42.80 at the close in New York. Cerro Verde rose 0.4 percent to $37.25 in Lima.

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