20 October 2009

BHP Says Spence Output Continues at ‘Reduced Rate’

By Nathan Gill
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, said copper production at its Spence mine in northern Chile continues at a “reduced rate” as a strike by workers enters an eighth day, an official said.

BHP declined to specify the current production rate, according to Ruban Yogarajah, a company spokesman in London.

Unionized miners at Spence, near the northern city of Calama, walked out Oct. 13 after rejecting a wage offer that was less than what workers received at BHP’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.

Escondida miners won a one-time bonus worth 14 million pesos ($25,730) and a pay increase of 5 percent a year over five years, Santiago-based newspaper La Tercera reported Oct. 11, without saying how it got the information.

Melbourne-based BHP produced 172,685 metric tons of copper at Spence in the 12 months through June 30 and plans to reach full capacity of 200,000 tons in the coming year, the company said Sept. 14.

Yogarajah, speaking in a telephone interview from London today, declined to comment on wage talks with workers.