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BHP Billiton’s Colombian Nickel Workers Threaten Strike

Workers at BHP Billiton’s Colombian Cerro Matoso mine, the world’s second-largest nickel producer, are threatening to strike if the company disciplines a laborer.

The company will hold a disciplinary hearing Feb. 14 to determine whether to sanction mine worker Jamer Ledesma for an alleged breach of a safety procedure, Sintracerromatoso union leader Domingo Hernandez said today. The union will decide by Feb. 21 whether to halt work, depending on the company’s decision, Hernandez said.

“Surely, if they discipline our colleague, we will have a labor conflict” and will halt work at Cerro Matoso, Hernandez said, speaking by phone from Cordoba province, where the mine is located.

Ledesma is a member of the union’s board. The company didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail requesting comment.

Cerro Matoso is world’s number two producer of ferronickel, according to BHP Billiton’s website. A strike at the mine five years ago contributed to a 16 percent increase in the price of nickel during the first quarter of 2008. In December, the company extended its lease on the mine until 2029.

Nickel for delivery in three months settled 0.8 percent higher at $18,165 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange today. The metal gained 6.5 percent this year after falling 8.8 percent in 2012, the only one of the six LME metals to post a decline that year.

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