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Author Boom means power passes to the miners

Avatar of carnkie

Joined: 07/09/2007
Location: camborne, cornwall

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Boom means power passes to the miners
Posted: 03/11/2011 08:10:57
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Interesting article in the Times today. I'v posted the article as the link doesn't always work. © The Times.

Boom means power passes to the miners
Ian King: Business Editor’s commentary

Ian King, Business Editor

November 3 2011 12:01AM

Transport for London is not the only organisation to have spotted the cost-saving potential of technology. It may be planning for driverless Tube trains but Tom Albanese, Rio Tinto’s chief executive, yesterday agreed to buy 150 trucks from Japan’s Komatsu to be used in Rio’s iron ore mines in the inhospitable environs of Pilbara, Western Australia, but operated more than 1,500 kilometres away in Perth.

The soaring cost of labour has made such investments worthwhile. Pilbara miners enjoy basic salaries of at least A$120,000 (£77,782), with benefits that include accommodation, food and weekly return flights home.

Organised labour in global mining is flexing its muscles. The world’s second-biggest copper mine at Grasberg, in Indonesia, has been paralysed by a seven-week strike over pay that has led its owner, Freeport-McMoRan, to declare force majeure. The world’s third-biggest copper mine, Chile’s Collahuasi, owned by Anglo American and Xstrata, was hit by a stoppage earlier this week over bonus payments. Xstrata has also had to settle a dispute in South Africa, over an employee share-ownership scheme, that halted coal and alloy operations.

It shows the commodities boom has moved into a stage in the cycle where the power is with the workers. At current prices, every day of lost production is hugely expensive, giving the miners added bargaining power.

Sudden price spikes, such as yesterday’s 2 per cent jump in copper, could become more common. It could mean higher prices here, too.

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