Chilean workers launch strike at world's top copper mine

Markets Associated Press

Chilean workers are staging a strike at the world's biggest copper mine.

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The stoppage by some 2,500 workers at the Escondida mine began Thursday over demands for a bonus payment, a salary hike and other benefits.

President Michelle Bachelet's government is calling for talks to resolve the dispute. Experts say the stoppage will reduce production and lift world prices of the metal.

Chile is the world's top copper producing country. Escondida is located in the Atacama desert and produces about 1.2 million metric tons of copper each year.

The mine is majority owned by Australian mining company BHP Billiton Ltd.

Escondida's union staged a 26-day stoppage in 2006 that severely hit output and pushed up prices of copper.