The world’s largest copper producer Codelco has announced the temporary shutdown of its Salvador division, citing “force majeure” reasons amid contractors’ protests.

The Chilean state-owned company said in a statement late on Wednesday July 23 that the mobilisation of unions that represent service contractors “have endangered the security of Codelco’s staff and damaged the installations of the company and the public infrastructure.”

Salvador, the smallest division of Codelco, has been “inactive” since the protests began on Tuesday, the miner added.

"With this measure [the temporary shutdown] we are protecting the physical integrity of our workers, their families and the community surrounding our facilities," ceo Nelson Pizarro said in the statement.

The Chilean copper workers confederation (CTC), which is responsible for the protests, said in a statement that “the only violence has come from FFEE [Chile’s special police], from Codelco and from the government.”

The striking contractors demand the right to negotiate directly with Codelco for an increase in their benefits and the renewal of a labour agreement.

The company has reiterated over the past days that the negotiations are the responsibility of the services contractor companies and their employees.

Pizarro said earlier this week that the increase in the benefits package is "not compatible" with current market conditions or the sustainability of Codelco's structural projects.

Danielle Assalve
Twitter: dassalve_mb