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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
Chile copper miners' strike ends
Miners after voting to end a 25-day strike at the Escondida mine in northern Chile
Workers will return to work after a protracted and bitter dispute
A strike at the world's largest privately-owned copper mine has ended after workers voted in a secret ballot.

Union members at Chile's Escondida mine accepted new contracts, so ending a 25-day dispute, but it will take up to a week for full production to resume.

Workers voted more than 13 to one to accept a new 40-month contract, with a 5% wage rise and a $17,000 bonus.

La Escondida, owned by Anglo-Australian company BHP Billiton, produces 8% of the world's copper supply.

During the strike, with production down to about 40%, it was losing about $16m every day, said company officials.

Managers at Escondida had been offering a 4% pay rise, while the union sought 8% - down from an original demand for a 13% pay rise and a bonus of $30,000.

The new contract also provides health and education benefits for members, said a union official.

The union said 1,607 workers voted to accept the deal, with 121 voting against.

Record high

Union president Luis Troncoso said that both he and the workers were satisfied with the outcome and that the contract would be signed on Friday.

Striking miners from the Escondida copper mine in northern Chile at a union meeting last Friday
The strikers said they were due a bigger share of the mine's profits

The miners are expected to return to work on Saturday, though full production is unlikely to be reached until the end of next week.

In a statement, Escondida said it was "convinced that the final result of this large process will prove beneficial to both sides".

Copper prices have hit record highs this year - due to strong global demand led by China - and this is the main reason why workers at the mine said they deserved a substantial pay rise.

The strike began on 7 August, when the previous union contract expired. That was negotiated when copper prices were less than $0.80 per pound - they are now more than $3.

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