Strike hits output at top Peru copper mine Cerro Verde -union

A worker loads copper cathodes into a warehouse in a file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

LIMA (Reuters) - Workers at Peru's top copper mine, Freeport-McMoRan's (FCX.N) Cerro Verde (CVE.LM), started an indefinite strike on Friday that halted 95 percent of production of about 40,000 tonnes per month, the union said.

But a dispute over worker demands might be solved at a scheduled meeting between union officials and the mine's management on Monday, said Zenon Mujica, the secretary general of the union.

Workers want better family health benefits and a bigger share of the mine's profits, which Mujica said have risen on better copper prices and higher output following an expansion.

"Copper prices have improved, production has improved, but profits for workers haven't improved," said Mujica.

Freeport said in a statement that Cerro Verde was "operating and continues to engage in constructive discussions with the Union and the company's employees to address their concerns."

The company declined further comment.

The stoppage is the latest disruption to global copper supplies to put pressure on prices, amid a month long strike at BHP Billiton's (BLT.L) (BHP.AX) Escondida mine in Chile and a dispute over export rights at Freeport's Grasberg mine in Indonesia.

Nearly all of the 1,300 unionized workers at Cerro Verde downed tools at 7:30 a.m. ET, said Mujica.

The company had planned to mitigate the impacts of the strike using 300-400 non-unionized workers who do not normally work in areas essential to production, said the union's deputy secretary general, Cesar Fernandez.

Freeport-McMoRan owns a 53.56-percent stake in Cerro Verde, which more than doubled its production of copper to nearly 500,000 tonnes of copper last year after a major expansion.

Sumitomo Metal Mining Company Ltd (5713.T) controls a 21-percent stake in the mine, and Buenaventura (BVN.N) (BUEv.LM) has 19.58 percent.

The Cerro Verde union had initially scheduled a five-day strike but voted this week to stop work indefinitely, Fernandez said.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Sandra Maler)