Santiago, Jun 23 (EFE).- The FTC union decided Thursday to end the strike it launched against Chilean state copper company Codelco to protest the shutdown of a smelter blamed for poisoning scores of people.
A long meeting between union leaders and executives of the world’s largest copper producer was followed by the release of a joint statement announcing the formation of a task force to address the future of the smelter and a “just transition” for employees.
The parties agreed to proceed with closing the Fundicion Ventanas smelter while boosting investment in the adjacent copper refinery at the Codelco complex in Quintero-Puchuncavi bay, on Chile’s central Pacific coast.
“We will enhance the other Codelco smelters and all the refineries because it is a crucial process for our business plan,” COO Andre Sougarret said.
FTC leader Amador Pantoja said that the accord “protects the employability of the Ventanas workers.”
The decision to shut down the smelter came two weeks after emissions from the plant sickened some 150 people, most of them children, and a similar episode on Wednesday affected a score of students at a nearby school.
Quintero-Puchuncavi bay is one of Chile’s five officially acknowledged sacrifice zones: areas where human well-being and the environment are subordinated to production.
The area was dubbed the Chilean Chernobyl by Greenpeace in the wake of the still-unexplained poisoning of more than 2,000 people on Aug. 21, 2018.
The FTC said that nearly 50,000 Codelco employees took part in Wednesday’s strike, but management and the Chilean government said that operations were not affected.
Finance Minister Mario Marcel said Wednesday at a press conference that $583 million, or 30 percent of Codelco’s 2021 profit, is being plowed back into the company this year and pledged to maintain that level of investment for the next four years.
Chile accounts for 28 percent of global copper output. While Codelco is the largest producer, multinational giants such as BHP and Anglo American also export the red metal from the Andean nation.