BHP Confirms Strike at Colombian Nickel Plant


BHP Billiton said on Thursday it had been notified of a strike at its Cerro Matoso ferronickel mining and smelting business in Colombia after talks with a union over labor contracts failed.

Benchmark London Metal Exchange nickel futures hit $29,900 in electronic trade in Asia, up 2.4 percent or $700 from the previous close, and its highest since mid-January. In the previous session prices surged around 5 percent.

"Nickel doesn't really trade in Asia hours, but its being bought this morning, probably on this fundamental news. What will be interesting to see is how it handles the resistance around $30,000," a trader in Sydney said.

A company spokeswoman said she did not know how long production at the site would be affected.

"I can confirm that workers at the Cerro Matoso nickel mine and smelter in the district of Cordoba, northern Colombia have notified strike action," she said.

She said the strike notice came after a breakdown of talks on a new two-year labor contract at the BHP plant, 400 km (250 miles) north of Bogota that employs some 3,000 people directly and indirectly.

The business produces 55,000 tons of ferronickel annually, or about 4 percent of the world's nickel, according to Reuters Metal Production Database.

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