Workers at Antofagasta's Zaldivar copper mine in Chile enter mediation to stave off strike

Credit: REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Caballero

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO, July 15 (Reuters) - Chile's Antofagasta ANTO.L and unionized workers at its Zaldívar mine entered into mediation with the government on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to stave off a strike amid a coronavirus outbreak in the South American nation.

Workers at the mine voted in favor of a walk-off late last week after rejecting a new contract offer, which they said had stripped some current benefits.

The company has agreed to continue to dialogue. A period of government mediation will run through July 22, the union told Reuters.

Antofagasta still has until Friday to request government mediation at another of its copper mines, Centinela, where supervisors paved the way for a strike after rejecting the company's pay offer.

Major copper miners operating in Chile, the world's top copper producer, have largely maintained output even as measures to combat the coronavirus have devastated other parts of its economy.

The fast-spreading virus, however, has prompted calls in recent weeks for shutting down mines and beefing up sanitary protocols.

Zaldivar, which is co-owned by Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO, accounts for around 2% of Chile's annual copper production.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago Writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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