The mine, in Cordoba province, is owned by BHP Billiton and normally produces 55,000 tonnes of ferronickel annually, or about 4 percent of the world’s nickel, according to the Reuters Metal Production Database. At the start of the strike, a company official had said the mine was “totally paralyzed” and the protest has supported international nickel prices. London Metal Exchange nickel prices MNI3 are up 24 percent this year. On Friday, LME three-months nickel was quoted at $32,700 a tonne. “The strike continues. The union passed a proposal to the company to sort this out and the company has become intransigent again,” said Carlos Barroso, vice president of the Sintracerromatoso labor union. “At the moment, talks or any approach to the strike committee is off,” he said by telephone. A Cerro Matoso representative in Bogota could not be reached immediately for comment on the state of talks. The work stoppage began on Feb. 27 after a breakdown in talks over a new two-year contract for the plant, which employees around 3,000 people. Workers are demanding the company hire employees to replace those who have retired over recent years due to hearing and lung illnesses, the union says. (Reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota; Editing by Walter Bagley)
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