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Ok Tedi mine strike nears fourth day
(Reuters, March 13)

Striking workers at PNG`s Ok Tedi copper mine are locked in talks over a wage dispute
Striking workers at PNG`s Ok Tedi copper mine are locked in talks over a wage dispute

Striking workers at Papua New Guinea`s Ok Tedi copper mine were locked in talks with management and government arbitrators on Thursday over a three-day old wage dispute that is costing US$10 to US$12 million a day in lost production.

Mining, milling and shipping at the mine, which supplies 1.1% of the already-tight global copper concentrate market, came to a halt on March 11 when workers walked off the job.

The talks between the Allied Workers Union, mine operator Ok Tedi Mining Ltd and the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations were trying to resolve issues put forward by workers, who want a 100% wage hike, a mine spokeswoman said "Industrial relations officers are still meeting with the union and management but so far no one has gone back to work," she said.

The mine`s managing director, Alan Breen, said in a statement early on Wednesday that he had hoped the strike would end within 24 hours. The strike was in reaction to a decision by management to exclude the general workforce from a 100% pay increase awarded to the mine`s engineers in a bid to retain them after a number were lost to better paying jobs overseas.

Ok Tedi is 52%-owned by PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, an independent firm set up to fund development projects in Papua New Guinea that acquired its shares from BHP Billiton following environmental concerns over waste discharged into local rivers.

PNG`s government has a 30% stake and Canada`s Inmet Mining Corp 18%. Inmet said on March 12 that the strike would reduce its copper production by 85t and gold output by 330oz for each day it continued. The mine produced 169,184t of copper-in-concentrate in 2007.

Its gold production was 498,790oz last year. The mine accounts for around 10% of the impoverished South Pacific nation`s gross national product and 20% of total exports.

(Reuters, March 13)
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