SANTIAGO - U.S.-based mining company Freeport-McMoRan said it was laying off more than 650 workers at its El Abra copper mine in northern Chile due to sharply lower prices of the red metal.
The workers affected by the layoffs will receive severance packages that exceed what is required under Chilean law, a company spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday.
The mine is located in the Atacama Desert at a spot some 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the city of Calama.
The layoffs come as the company is implementing a roughly 50 percent drop in mining, stacking and crushing rates at the mine, in which Freeport owns a 51 percent stake and Chilean state-owned copper giant Codelco has the remaining 49 percent interest.
The FTC copper workers' federation slammed the layoffs as "unilateral and arbitrary."
"This business conduct ... is incompatible with the inclusive, virtuous and socially responsible behavior that should prevail as an ethical imperative among all operators in the mining industry," the FTC said on its Web site.
In remarks to Bio Bio radio, the president of the El Abra mine's San Lorenzo union, Oscar Arnes, blasted the layoffs as "unjustified" and criticized the government for failing to respond to the dismissals.
Arizona-based Freeport is the world's second-largest copper producer after Codelco.