Please use symbol entry at top right of page to search

Chile's Codelco workers begin strike over Ventanas closure

SANTIAGO, June 22 (Reuters) - Workers at state-owned copper producer Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, went on strike early Wednesday morning to protest the closure of a smelter located in an area with high levels of contamination.

Some 50,000 workers will strike, including direct employees of the copper company and contractors, according to a statement released on Tuesday by Amador Pantoja, the president of the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), an umbrella group of Codelco's unions.

Codelco's board of directors approved the closure of the Ventanas smelter last Friday while guaranteeing a "fair transition" for workers. The decision was later backed by Chilean President Gabriel Boric and several of his ministers.

The smelter has been closed for maintenance and operational adjustments for over 10 days after a recent environmental incident sickened dozens in the region.

Workers had already warned last week that they would go on strike if investments to upgrade the facility were not approved. On Friday night they said they regretted that Codelco "takes sole responsibility for the environmental incidents in the area of Puchuncavi and Quintero".

Environmental activists have long described Quintero and its surroundings as a "sacrifice zone" because of repeated pollution incidents which have led to public health crises. The town is saturated with industrial activities that also include the state oil company ENAP, as well as chemical companies.

In a statement on Tuesday, the FTC insisted the state-owned company invest in upgrading the smelter.

The Ventanas facility also operates a refinery, which will not be affected by the measure. (Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Copyright © Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

News, commentary and research reports are from third-party sources unaffiliated with Fidelity. Fidelity does not endorse or adopt their content. Fidelity makes no guarantees that information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, and does not provide any warranties regarding results obtained from their use.