Workers at Colombia’s Cerro Matoso ferronickel mine, the world’s second largest, have authorized a strike beginning June 14.
Just the announcement of the strike authorization was enough to provoke a rise in the global price of nickel, which has been in a long-term slump, according to Metal Bulletin.
About 2,000 people work at Cerro Matoso. But South32, its Australian-based owner, in February announced plans to cut the work force by 18% and cut overall operating costs by 30%.
In negotiations with the mine workers’ union Sintracerromatoso, the company proposed to cut benefits and peg this year’s salary increase to half of Colombia’s 2015 inflation rate of 6.77%, according to Bloomberg news service.
The price of nickel has fallen more than 70% in the last five years, a factor the company says is driving its push to cut costs.
If the strike proceeds as scheduled, it would be the second in 14 months at the huge mine, located in Córdoba in northern Colombia. The 2015 strike lasted two weeks, and resulted in the company backing off its plan to move from three 8-hour shifts each day to two 12-hour shifts, according to Mining.com.
The Cerro Matoso mine has been operating since 1982 and has enough reserves to last several more decades, the company says.
Ferronickel is a mixture of iron and nickel, used widely in the production of stainless steel. Colombia is one of the largest sources of the metal.
South32, based in Perth, Australia, is a global leader in mining, with operations in Africa and Australia as well as Colombia. Sales in fiscal year 2015 were USD $7.7 billion.