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Learning English - Words in the News
18 August, 2006 - Published 12:42 GMT
Chile copper strike
Chile's Escondida copper miners
Striking miners at Escondida

The managers of the world's largest copper mine, Escondida in Chile, say they have suspended operations and broken off talks with unions in a dispute over pay. This report from Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker.

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Escondida, which is majority owned by the international mining giant BHP Biliton, had said it was producing half its normal output during the strike. Now, after nearly two weeks, all production at the mine is stopping.

There remains a wide gulf between what the company is offering - a three per cent pay rise - and what workers want - ten per cent, down from their original demand of thirteen per cent. They also want a thirty thousand dollar bonus, to share in the windfall the company has enjoyed from current high copper prices; managers have offered a little over half that.

The mine accounts for about eight per cent of global copper production. The dispute has already had some effect on copper prices and there was a further rise in early trading in the London Metal Exchange following news that production is stopping at Escondida.

Copper prices have risen strongly in the last few years, due to strong demand, driven in part by China's rapid economic growth. The metal is used extensively in the construction industry, for electrical wiring and copper pipes are used for plumbing.

Andrew Walker, BBC

Listen to the words

broken off talks
stopped or interrupted negotiations

argument or disagreement

majority owned
when more than half the shares in a company are owned by someone – whether a person or another company

a wide gulf
a big gap, in this case meaning a big difference between the two sides

an extra payment, on top of the normal salary

share in the windfall
to have part of an unexpected financial benefit

used extensively
used a lot or widely

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