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BHP BILLITON - 2006 (BLT)     

dai oldenrich - 20 Apr 2006 09:29

Company is the worlds largest diversified resources group. It has seven divisions: Petroleum, Aluminium, Base Metals, Carbon Steel materials, Diamonds and speciality products, Energy coal and Stainless steel materials.

            Red = 25 day moving average.           Green = 200 day moving average.

SALES PER ACTIVITY (Data as of 30/06/2006)

Carbon steel:   28%
Oil:                18%
Aluminum:       15%
Basic metals:   15%
Coal:               9%
Stainless steel: 9%
:                    3%
minerals, etc:   3%

VGSRIRAM - 20 Apr 2006 16:51 - 2 of 137


Could some one please tell me whether minors are in Bull run or just making a bubble?


Jumpin - 21 Apr 2006 00:05 - 3 of 137

I sold BLT Wednesday ;)

SILVA - 23 Apr 2006 13:18 - 4 of 137

buy our sold

The best advise

denny - 02 May 2006 19:03 - 5 of 137

bhp had a bad oil spillagge from one of their unmanned platforms off Formby,merseyside at the weekend. Clean up operation underway. A crack in a pipe is to blame! coastline oily!! tourism down. bhp in for a court battle??????????

dai oldenrich - 21 Jun 2006 07:29 - 6 of 137

Copper stopper threat to BHP

Jun 20, 2006 (The Australian - ABIX via COMTEX) -- Industrial action seems possible by the over 2,000 staff at the Escondida copper mine in Chile. The union has finalised a claim for wage rises and improved conditions with the workers and will present it to management soon. The operation's main owner is Australian-listed resources group BHP Billiton, which is reaping the benefits of an increase in copper prices by some 400% since pay rises were last granted in 2003. It is also facing possible strikes at the Ekati diamond mine it operates in Canada. Experts warn that up to 20% of all copper production globally could soon be affected by industrial disputes.

Publication Date: 21 June 2006

dai oldenrich - 21 Aug 2006 08:48 - 7 of 137

BHP buyback plan could aggravate miners' strike

Marianne Barriaux
Monday August 21, 2006
The Guardian

BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining group, is expected to announce a share buyback of at least $2bn (1bn) this week, as it battles with striking workers at its copper mine in Chile over demands for higher salaries.

Soaring commodity prices have generated huge amounts of cash for mining groups and most have channelled some of the money back to shareholders through dividends or share buybacks.

Anglo American, for example, announced $5bn would be returned to shareholders at its interim results presentation two weeks ago, and BHP itself has already given back $2bn. Rio Tinto, the world's second-biggest miner, is conducting a $2.5bn share buyback, and has returned $1.5bn in a special dividend.

Article continues
But some workers are feeling aggrieved that the money is not being used to increase their wages, and BHP is locked in a battle at its Escondida copper mine in Chile, which accounts for 8% of global output. On Friday, it closed the mine after employees blocked all road access. Prior to that, Escondida had been running at 40% of its capacity.

Negotiations between BHP and the union, which had been taking place intermittently for 12 days since the strike started on August 7, were broken off.

The Chilean government subsequently began to mediate and persuaded the workers to lift their blockades. Talks started again on Saturday, and BHP has reopened the mine and is in the process of bringing in contract workers to restore production to the previous 40% level.

The expected announcement of the share buyback at BHP's full-year results on Wednesday is likely to anger union workers at Escondida, whose demand for a pay rise of 10 percentage points above inflation, and a bonus of 15,355, has been rejected by the company. It has offered a three percentage point increase and a bonus of 8,215.

The news will be further amplified by BHP's actual results, which are expected to be record-breaking. Analysts expect the group to post a $10bn net profit for the year, up from $6.43bn, as commodity prices have soared. The price of copper, for example, has more than doubled this year on the back of booming industrial demand, particularly from China.

But, increasingly, rising costs are having an impact in an industry where a big truck tyre can now cost as much as $100,000. BHP has had to re-evaluate new projects as a result.

Its Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Western Australia, for example, has seen costs go up 30% from initial predictions, and BHP is reviewing its timing and budget.

Investors will be looking to see exactly how much of an impact rising costs have had, and how they will affect the group.

Crude oil is also a sore point for BHP, with its production down 10% during the year due to a hurricane and the cyclone season in the US and Australia.

Total petroleum product output for the year has remained unchanged.

dai oldenrich - 23 Aug 2006 08:13 - 8 of 137

The Times August 23, 2006

Business in Brief - Escondida miners reduce demands

The striking union at Chiles Escondida, the worlds biggest copper mine, has agreed to reduce its wage and bonus demands on the sixteenth day of a strike that has rattled copper markets. The union trimmed its demand for a rise to 8 per cent from 10 per cent and its demand for a special copper-price-linked bonus to $19,000 (10,000) per worker, from $30,000. The mine is owned by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, the worlds biggest mining groups.

stockbunny - 23 Aug 2006 08:23 - 9 of 137

BHP cautious on growth
BHP Billiton said this morning net profit for the year to June rose to $10.45bn from $6.39bn

The miner said rising numbers were based on strong commodity prices, largely driven by China's demand for raw materials. The result was in line with market expectations.

The world's largest diversified resources group said it remains optimistic about further earnings growth because of China's demand for its products.

It said, overall global growth may slow because of rising raw material prices, particularly oil.

dai oldenrich - 24 Aug 2006 07:42 - 10 of 137

BHP Escondida Mine Union Ready to Hold Out 30-60 Days (Update4)

By Jeb Blount

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Striking BHP Billiton miners in Chile said they are ready to extend their walkout at the world's biggest copper mine by another six weeks unless the company improves its contract offer.

Miners at BHP's Escondida, who have been on strike since Aug. 7, are ready to hold out for 30 to 60 days after yesterday lowering their wage and bonus demands, said Luis Troncoso Munoz, president of the Escondida miner workers union.

Prices for copper, Chile's biggest export, have quintupled in four years on surging demand for the metal from China, prompting mine workers to seek a larger share of mining profits. BHP today announced second-half profit of $6.1 billion, a record for any Australian company. The Melbourne-based company plans to buy $3 billion of its own stock from shareholders.

``The company will lose if they try to break off dialog and hire outside workers,'' said Toncoso Munoz in an interview at his office in Antofagasta. ``We really don't understand why they are taking such a tough line when they are making such large profits; the amount we are asking is nothing compared with the amount they are giving back to shareholders.''

Workers are seeking a wage increase of 8 percentage points above inflation, down from a previous demand for a 10-point increase, union spokesman Francisco Aedo said yesterday in a phone interview from Antofagasta. Workers also seek a bonus of 10 million pesos ($18,792), down from 16 million pesos, he said.

BHP Australian-traded shares fell 36 cents, or 1.3 percent, to A$28.39.


The demands at Escondida are going to be repeated in contract negotiations under way or expected to begin before the end of the year, Troncoso Munoz said. His union and those representing workers at BHP's Spence Mine in northern Chile and at mines owned by Codelco, plan to use any Escondida agreement as a benchmark for their own, he said. Chile's government-owned Codelco is the world's No. 1 copper producer.

``We fully back the Escondida workers in their fight,'' said Andres Ramirez, head of the union at BHP's Spence copper mine. Workers at the mine, expected to begin production later this year, are in their first contract talks. ``We want a share of the extraordinary profits too.''

The union at Escondida is ready to renew talks at any time, Troncoso Munoz said.

Copper futures for December delivery fell 1.05 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $3.4675 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have more than doubled in the past year.


BHP has been calling workers, seeking to rehire them as allowed under Chilean labor law, said Mauro Valdes, vice president of corporate communications with BHP in Santiago. There have been no talks between the union and BHP since the union rejected BHP's last offer Aug. 21.

The union said Escondida management has tried to undermine workers' resolve to continue the strike in the phone calls to them and their family members.

``They are trying to scare the wives and children of workers into thinking that the strike will lead to the loss of their jobs,'' Troncoso Munoz said, as he left the union offices to file a grievance over the issue.

``They do have the right to try to hire new workers or talk to strikers, but we consider their tactics improper and unconstitutional,'' he said.

dai oldenrich - 24 Aug 2006 07:50 - 11 of 137

Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:29 AM

M&S replaces BHP on ING focus list

Aug 24 (Reuters) - ING said Marks & Spencer Group plc replaced the world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton plc, on its focus list.

In a research note, the brokerage said it believes the British retailer, for which it has a "buy" rating, will continue to generate like-for-like sales growth ahead of the U.K. sector for the next two years.

BHP Billiton, for which ING has a "hold" rating, may face a U.S. slowdown, which could reduce the premium to net present value at which the stock has traded recently, the brokerage said.

ING said it raised its earnings-per-share forecasts for 2007 and 2008 by 4 percent and 10 percent respectively for Marks & Spencer, as it sees ongoing positive newsflow for the retailer and expects strong estimate momentum.

ING has a price target of 670 pence for Marks & Spencer and 1,243 pence for BHP Billiton.

stockbunny - 24 Aug 2006 08:09 - 12 of 137

The upgrade below borrowed from the Traders Thread here on AM

0606 GMT [Dow Jones] JP Morgan ups BHP Billiton (BLT.LN) target to 1251p from 1222p and reiterates overweight rating following FY 06 results. Believes BHP should undertake substantial share buybacks in the future to maintain a geared balance sheet. Predicts a US$7B programme in 07 but forecasts a share buyback of $20B if current share prices hold over the financial year. But notes BHP's indication commodity prices could be unsustainable and believes it is worried by the volatility of the market. Shares closed at 1014p.

dai oldenrich - 24 Aug 2006 21:29 - 13 of 137

08.24.2006, 03:26 PM - AFX News Limited

Chile copper mine workers accuse BHP Billiton of union-busting

ANTOFAGASTA, Chile (AFX) - Striking Chilean miners today sued BHP Billiton, accusing the Anglo-Australian company of union-busting, polarizing the sides on day 18 of a strike at the world's largest copper mine.

The suit accuses the mine's management of 'anti-union practices,' union leader Luis Troncoso said, citing alleged company pressuring of strikers to accept individual contracts.

Company officials have lured some strike-breakers to accept individual contracts, as permitted under Chilean law after day 15 of the strike, local media reported.

Rising copper prices helped trigger the strike on Aug 7, with the expiration of a union contract negotiated three years ago when copper brought 0.80 usd a pound; it now brings 3.0 usd.

Two thousand workers struck Minera Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, and analysts Fitch Ratings warned in Paris said high prices may prompt workers in any country to strike while copper is hot.

The Escondida mine is owned 57.5 pct by BHP Billiton, with Rio Tinto holding 30 pct and the Mitsubishi Corp-led Japanese consortium owning 10 pct.

Negotiations between management and the strikers at Minera Escondida ground to a halt late Monday after the miners overwhelmingly rejected the company's latest pay and bonus offer.

However, Troncoso said, the union is ready to talk: 'The company has not answered our invitation to return to talks, but we are still hopeful.'

'Now, waiting has its limits. Our people are getting impatient and we won't rule out tougher measures,' he said.

Late last week, BHP sweetened its offer, proposing a 4.0 pct salary increase for a four-year contract and a 18,000 usd one-time signing bonus to end the conflict. The union turned down that proposal.

The 2,052 workers have reduced their demand to a 10 pct, from 13 pc, and would accept a 30,000 usd bonus.

Mauro Valdes, BHP Billiton's vice president of public affairs, has warned that the company would not budge on its latest offer.

Management will continue to hire 'substitute' miners, as authorized under Chilean law, the company's corporate affairs chief, Pedro Correa, made clear: 'Workers who want to rejoin the Minera Escondida workforce have that legal right, which is undeniable and that we are going to respect.'

BHP Billiton closed the Escondida Minera for several hours last week, citing safety concerns over actions taken by striking workers, and said it would pursue legal action against union workers who blocked access roads to the mine to keep out non-union workers.

In London, BHP Billiton said Monday that operations had resumed at the mine after talks with the strikers were revived over the weekend, and that Escondida production stands at between 40 and 60 pct of normal output.

The union says their wage demand reflects a tripling in global copper prices since the previous collective bargaining agreement.

The mine is located in the Atacama desert some 1,300 kilometres north of the capital Santiago.

It produces 8 pct of the world's copper, or 1.3 mln tonnes. That is roughly one-fifth of Chile's total production and 2.5 pct of Chile's entire economic output.

Each unproductive day costs the company some 16 mln usd.

dai oldenrich - 25 Aug 2006 07:26 - 14 of 137

Business - The Times - August 25, 2006

Stop press

Chilean miners sue BHP Billiton

Striking Chilean miners launched a legal action against BHP Billiton, accusing the Anglo-Australian company of union busting. The lawsuit comes on the eighteenth day of a strike at the worlds largest copper mine. It accuses the mines management of anti-union practices, claiming that the company pressurised strikers to accept individual contracts.

dai oldenrich - 26 Aug 2006 07:01 - 15 of 137

Dow Jones - 25 Aug 2006 - Copper Smelters Must Adjust To New Mkt Conditions

SYDNEY --The world's biggest miner BHP Billiton (BHP) said Friday copper smelters need to make "strategic adjustments" if less favorable commercial terms for processing the metal restrict their profitability.

"If their cost structure is one that doesn't work for them, then strategically they have to make some adjustments," BHP Billiton chief executive Chip Goodyear told reporters in Sydney Friday.

BHP Billiton, one of the world's largest producers of copper concentrates, is locked in negotiations with Japanese smelters to settle midyear treatment and refining charges against a backdrop of tight mine supply and high prices.

One of the smelters, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd.(5713.TO), said last month that BHP's plan to scrap a key profit-sharing arrangement could cripple the industry.

But Goodyear said surging copper prices and the development of low cost smelters in China and India, "which don't need a price participation element to make sense," means the market has changed.

"We've been trying to talk to our customers about that for quite some time with not much success of reaching an outcome there," he said.

Last year BHP Billiton shelled out an additional US$144 million due to an increase in treatment and refining charges and price participation, which gives smelters a 10% share of metal prices over US$0.90, Goodyear said.

"That's a high number (and) nobody anticipated copper at US$3.50...we think it's out of balance particularly with the change of industry structure moving to places with a lower cost base - it's a tough situation."

Asked what BHP Billiton is offering smelters in return from accepting less favorable terms, Goodyear said information and advice about how the market is changing and "how they should strategically adjust their portfolio."

"With a few exceptions, (we've had) not much success. Some of them put in investments in China but that's basically what we offer, and ultimately continued supply," he said.

Besides Sumitomo, Pan Pacific Copper Co., Japan's biggest copper refiner, also has rejected BHP's proposed changes, leading the way for other refiners to voice their opposition to the changes.

Meanwhile, BHP has declared force majeure on its contractual obligations to smelters in Japan and elsewhere due to an ongoing strike at the Escondida copper mine in Chile.

Analysts said the Escondida strike - set against an already critically tight concentrates market - strengthens BHP's position at the negotiating table with smelters.

dai oldenrich - 26 Aug 2006 07:01 - 16 of 137

MarketWatch - 25 August 2006

Top BHP copper exec: Escondida strike hurting economy

The now 19-day-old strike at the BHP Billiton (BHP)-controlled Escondida copper mine in Chile will hurt the local economy as the mine accounts for 2.5% of the country's gross national produce, the company's chief copper executive said in Friday's El Mercurio newspaper.

The mine is also the country's largest private tax payer, contributing more than $1 billion in the first half of the year.

"The total or partial shutdown of Escondida will undoubtedly affect the Chilean economy," BHP Billiton Base Metals President Diego Hernandez told the newspaper.

While the company has been open to talks at every step, the union's attitude in these negotiations has been less the responsible, the executive said.

"The country saw the union leaders' smiling faces on the evening news, after they left negotiations Sunday, and a few minutes later their calls to vote against the offer on the grounds that it was a joke," Hernandez said in reference to the company's sweetened fourth offer presented Sunday, hours before the union held a general assembly.

At that general assembly, the union told workers to cast their ballots against the proposal at a Monday vote.

The union rejected the offer with a 98% vote against, and prolonged the strike. Talks broke down since that vote and have not resumed since.

"No one can, responsibly, call the historic and attractive offer a joke," Hernandez is quoted as saying in La Tercera newspaper Friday.

Market analysts agree that the Escondida talks will set a precedent for upcoming contract negotiations at several of Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile's, or Codelco, mines.

"It's part of the information that future negotiators will have on hand," Hernandez said in La Tercera.

dai oldenrich - 26 Aug 2006 07:01 - 17 of 137

MarketWatch - 25 August 2006 - Fewer than 20 Chile Escondida strikers back at work

Less than 20 of the striking workers at Chilean copper mine Escondida have abandoned the strike, negotiated contracts individually and returned to work, a union source said Thursday.

"It's about half of those we thought would abandon the strike," said a union representative, who asked not to be named.

On Monday, 38 of some 1,900 voting union members cast their ballot in favour of abandoning the strike. The other 98% of workers voted to reject the company's fourth, sweetened, offer and continue the strike.

With the strike in its 18th day, talks are currently at a stalemate, according to both the company and the union.

"They are at a dead point," the union source said, echoing a similar comment made earlier Thursday by Escondida.

The mine is producing at between 40% and 60% of capacity, a company spokeswoman said, with the company maintaining output using non-union and subcontracted labour.

At the same time, Escondida has not yet decided whether to hire replacement workers as it is entitled to do at this stage, in keeping with Chile's labour laws.

"We're evaluating this as we work to normalize output at the mine," with the decision hinging on the duration of the strike, the spokeswoman said.

A company source laughed the idea off suggestions that the mine, controlled by BHP Billiton (BHP), would bring workers in from its operations in other countries, including neighbouring Peru.

Workers would have to secure work visas, which is not necessarily a speedy process, the source said.

"The speculation can get a little crazy at this point in the strike," he added.

When the strike began, the union secured bank loans for each worker, which would allow them to continue the strike for another month or so, union leaders have said.

The union has also received financial and material support from other mining unions as well as the CUT national umbrella union group.

"Representatives from a Codelco Norte union visited the strikers today, and they've provided food and other goods," the union source said.

Strikes and other work stoppages in the copper mining industry have played a major role in driving the red metal's price higher over the past three years, bolstered by strong demand.

BHP Billiton controls Escondida with a 57.5% stake, while Rio Tinto PLC (RTP) holds 30%, a Mitsubishi Corp. (8058.TO)-led Japanese consortium 10% and International Finance Corp. 2.5%.

dai oldenrich - 26 Aug 2006 17:03 - 18 of 137

Escondida miners camp down in desert for long struggle as Chilean workers become increasingly militant in their battle with BHP Billiton

dai oldenrich - 28 Aug 2006 08:26 - 19 of 137

Mining Weekly - 28 August 2006

BHP to increase production at Escondida copper mine

BHP Billiton will seek to increase production in Chile at its Escondida copper mine, the biggest in the world, as more than 2 000 workers extend a strike that's cut output in half into a fourth week.

The mine may try to hire more replacement workers this week, adding to the 50 already employed, Alejandra Wood, a spokeswoman for the Melbourne-based company said late yesterday from Santiago. Neither BHP nor the labor union have plans to restart talks, which have been frozen since the union rejected the company's August 21 offer.

The goal is to produce as much as possible, given the situation, Wood said. Production is now at 50% of pre-strike levels. Output at the cathode plant, where copper ore is refined into a metallic form, is at 15%, Wood said.

Workers at the mine, which accounted for about 8,5% of the world's mined copper last year, began striking August 7 in pursuit of increased pay and benefits. They are seeking a bigger share of the company's profits after copper prices surged to a record this year.

BHP, which owns 57,5% of the mine, reported a 63% jump in full-year profit to a record $10,45-billion last week. Escondida's owners, which include London-based Rio Tinto Group and Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corp., have said the strike is erasing about $16-million a day in profit.

Copper prices in Shanghai rose for the first day in four on concern rival copper mines may also face strikes. Labor talks are scheduled later this year at Chile's state-owned Codelco, the world's biggest producer.

Copper for October delivery on the Shanghai Futures Exchange gained as much as 570 yuan, or 0,8%, to 68 050 yuan ($8 537) a metric ton. The contract traded at 67 910 yuan a ton at 1:59 p.m. in Shanghai.

Copper supply in the medium term remains tight, Yu Mengguo, metal analyst at Jinpeng Futures Co., said by phone from Beijing. Stories of labor unrest in such a market make people more nervous about supply.

The Escondida union's lawyers are reviewing company plans to use subcontractors in new areas of the mine to increase production and may file a claim against the practice, union spokesman Pedro Marin said in a phone interview from Antofagasta, 1 200 km north of Santiago.

BHP's Wood said Chile's labor inspector in Antofagasta has approved of how the company is using subcontractors at the mine.

dai oldenrich - 28 Aug 2006 20:19 - 20 of 137

(AP Online via COMTEX) - SANTIAGO, Chile, Aug 28, 2006

Striking Miners Seek Share of Profits

The world's largest mining company has had a very good year, something not lost on its miners in Chile. Some 2,000 miners at BHP Billiton's Escondida mine in Chile have been striking since early August, demanding a larger slice of what one worker called "the cake" being enjoyed by the Anglo-Australian company in the form of record profits from soaring world metal prices.

The strike has roiled world copper markets, often setting off buying and selling waves. Copper from Escondida represents about 8 percent of world production, and the strike has brought about half that production to a halt - stoking fears of a shortage in an already tight market.

The strike is being closely followed across Chile, the world's largest copper producer, where the government is under pressure to spend more of its copper windfall and unions are waiting to see what kind of concessions the Escondida strikers gain.

But executives of BHP Billiton Ltd and other mining companies are wary of being locked into contracts that will mean significantly higher labor costs just as metal prices may be peaking.

There's no doubt, however, these are bonanza days for BHP Billiton. The Melbourne-based company reported it earned $10.45 billion for the year through June, an Australian corporate profit record.

When the Escondida miners' union last negotiated a contract with BHP Billiton three years ago, copper sold for about 80 cents a pound. Mines were mothballed. The industry was near the bottom of a bust cycle.

Since then, demand from fast-growing economies such as China and India have helped drive the price of copper to about $3.50 today. Strong demand, supply constraints and a broader rally in the commodities market pushed the price of copper to an all-time high of $4.08 a pound in May.

This time around, the workers want their share of the boom times. About 800 workers have been camped in tents in a sports center the company owns in the port city of Antofagasta since Aug. 7, having refused the company's contract offers.

The copper mine cuts a deep bowl into Chile's Atacama Desert, bordered by the Andes on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west, outside of Antofagasta, 870 miles north of Santiago.

Oscar Moreno, 44, has worked 17 years at Escondida, where he drives the heavy-duty trucks and tractors used in mining operations. He lives with his wife and two of their children, in a house partly paid for with a loan from the company, in Antofagasta, about 125 miles away.

Moreno said he and the other workers generally work four 12-hour days, sleeping and eating at the mine, then have four days at home. He earns about $1,490 a month, plus quarterly bonuses.

"I feel my situation is good, compared to the general situation of workers in Chile," he said in a telephone interview from the strike camp. "I cannot complain, really, and I do not complain about my situation. My complaint is about the money that the company makes. We are asking for just one percent of the 'cake' it gets."

In reporting its annual profit - up 63 percent from the prior year - BHP Billiton noted the Escondida mine produced record volumes for the company.

But costs are on the rise, too. Labor is the company's third-largest cost, behind energy and mining expenses, according to the company's latest annual report.

BHP has offered workers a four-year contract that includes a 4 percent wage raise plus bonuses, up from an initial 3 percent offer. The workers want 8 percent plus bonuses, after initially asking for 13 percent.

"Our work force at Escondida is some of the highest-paid in Chile, and this is essentially the most attractive package that has been offered to the work force in that region," said Chief Executive Chip Goodyear, in a conference call.

Although the mine's name means "hidden" in Spanish, Escondida is now the center of attention for copper traders in New York and London. The slightest news or speculation will set off a flurry of buying or selling in the New York Mercantile Exchange, where millions of dollars in copper contracts change hands daily.

"Everyone is focused on Escondida," copper trader John Hanemann said.

The result of the Escondida walkout will have repercussions throughout the industry, traders and analysts say.

Contract talks at a number of copper mines - mainly in Chile - are due to expire in coming months, including Chile's state-owned Chuquicamate, the world's largest open pit copper mine. If workers at all six of the mines with expiring labor contracts opt to strike, 18 percent of world copper supply could be at risk, Merrill Lynch commodities strategist Francisco Blanch said in a recent report.

Chile represented about 36 percent of world copper production in 2005, well ahead of second-placed producer the United States, with about 8 percent of world output, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The country's leftist government has not intervened in the strike, although the impact on the economy is strong. Escondida paid $1 billion in taxes during the first half of this year alone, BHP Billiton's chief executive in Chile, Diego Hernandez, told the daily El Mercurio.

Other Chilean labor groups are also calling for some of the copper windfall, including powerful government-employee organizations representing school teachers and health workers.

And voices are emerging from inside President Michelle Bachelet's center-left coalition to increase government spending, especially in social sectors. The Christian Democratic Party, the largest in the four-party coalition, asked Bachelet for a double-digit increase in the 2007 budget now being drafted. Bachelet said the budget increase will be below 10 percent.

The Escondida miners, meanwhile, say they only want BHP Billiton to share a little of the bounty.

Carlos Munoz, a 45-year-old metallurgic plant operator, said the $1,080 he earns each month covers his family's basic expenses but not the needs of his 10-year-old daughter, Camila, who suffers from a chronic medical condition and needs an ear operation.

"Not even the bonuses are enough for me to give her everything she needs," he said. Bottom line, he said, "we live very tight."

dai oldenrich - 01 Sep 2006 07:21 - 21 of 137

BHP Workers to Return to Work at Largest Copper Mine Tomorrow

By Heather Walsh

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Striking workers at BHP Billiton Ltd. in Chile are scheduled to return to work tomorrow at the world's largest copper mine after agreeing to a new labor contract.

Workers will return to the Escondida mine in northern Chile at 8 a.m. New York time Sept. 2, Alejandra Wood, a spokeswoman for BHP said yesterday by phone. BHP, the world's largest mining company, plans to sign the contract today, ending a strike which began Aug. 7 and halved mine output. ``It takes a week to normalize production,'' Wood said in an interview from Santiago.

Chile, the world's biggest supplier of the metal, may face further strikes in coming months that may hamper production, Nevenko Diaz, a director of the Escondida union, said yesterday. Codelco, BHP's Cerro Colorado mine and Falconbridge Ltd.'s Collahuasi mine are scheduled to hold wage talks this fiscal year as workers seek a share of record mining company earnings.

``You can see that expectations are high because of profitability levels,'' said Pedro Diaz, treasurer for the union at Collahuasi, in an interview from the city of Iquique. ``There will be various conflicts. That possibly will happen with us.''

Copper for three-month delivery fell as much as $85, or 1.1 percent, to $7,615 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, and traded at $7,701 at 12:02 p.m. Beijing time.

Management at Collahuasi, which produces about 450,000 metric tons a year of copper, expects to avoid a strike, said William Gysling, a mine spokesman, by phone from Santiago. The union's contract expires in June, he said.

Rio, Mitsubishi

At Escondida, workers yesterday approved an offer for a pay rise of 5 percentage points above inflation, more than triple the increase under their prior contract, and a bonus of 9 million pesos ($16,667) per worker. Chile's inflation rate was 3.8 percent in July.

Melbourne-based BHP owns 57.5 percent of Escondida, while Rio Tinto Plc owns 30 percent. A group led by Mitsubishi Corp. owns 10 percent. The International Finance Corp. owns the rest.

Net income at Escondida, which accounts for 24 percent of copper exports from Chile, jumped to $2.92 billion in the first half of the year from $936.9 million a year earlier.

State-owned Codelco also faces wage negotiations this year in Chile at its Andina mine, where unions went on strike in 2003, and at Chuquicamata, its largest copper mine. The company owns 20 percent of the world's copper reserves.

Hector Roco, a director at Chuquicamata's largest union, said he expects workers and management to avoid a strike there.

``I'm confident we won't end up with a conflict,'' Roco said in a telephone interview.

Codelco reported Aug. 14 that profit more than doubled in the second quarter after rising demand pushed copper prices to a record. Net income jumped to $1.07 billion from $418 million a year earlier.

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