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Workers in Chile are on strike at the world’s largest copper producer – Business and Tech News – Report by AFR

Workers at Chile’s state-owned mining company Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, went on an indefinite strike on Wednesday to protest the closure of a foundry in one of the country’s most polluted regions.

Police said they arrested 18 people as striking workers waving Chilean flags and setting fire to tires blocked access to six mining facilities across the country. They did this mainly at the Ventanas foundry, which the government announced last week would be closed.

Union leaders said the strike paralyzed Codelco altogether, but finance minister Mario Marcel said it had “changed” production but not stopped it.

The Copper Workers Federation said the strike will cost Codelco – which produces around eight percent of the world’s copper, which accounts for 10 to 15 percent of Chile’s GDP – $20 million a day. Marcel disputed this number.

According to Pantoja, the FTC represents approximately 14,000 Codelco workers and another 40,000 outside contractors.

Unions have described the closure of the Ventanas foundry, some 140 kilometers west of the capital Santiago, as “arbitrary” and are demanding that the government invest $54 million to bring the plant up to the highest environmental standards.

– “Standards very low” –

Government spokeswoman Camila Vallejo said the government remains open to dialogue but is focused on “a more sustainable development model”.

“Our standards are very low, and if we really want to meet our environmental commitments, we need to align ourselves with World Health Organization standards,” she added.

Codelco’s decision comes after an incident on June 9 when 115 people, mostly school children, suffered sulfur dioxide poisoning released by heavy industry, provoking the closure of schools in the area.

It was the second such incident in just three days.

Sulfur dioxide is a classic air pollutant usually associated with burning fossil fuels.

Greenpeace dubbed the area around the Ventanas plant “Chiles Chernobyl” after a serious incident in 2018 when around 600 people in Quintero and Puchuncavi received medical treatment for symptoms including vomiting blood, headaches, dizziness, paralysis of their extremities and strange red spots on children’s skin .

Last week, President Gabriel Boric lashed out at Chile’s pollution record.

“We no longer want areas where (environmental) sacrifices have been made,” he said.

“Today there are hundreds of thousands of people living in our country who are facing serious environmental destruction that we have provoked or allowed to happen, and as a Chilean I am ashamed of it.”

Pollution piled up in the Quintero and Puchuncavi area, home to around 50,000 people, after the government decided in 1958 to turn it into an industrial center that now houses four coal-fired power plants and oil and copper refineries.

#Workers #Chile #strike #worlds #largest #copper #producer

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