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Chile says copper shipments uninterrupted by strike

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Codelco, the world's No. 1 copper producer, is losing a "substantial" amount of output due to a two-day-old strike at its Radomiro Tomic open pit mine in northern Chile, the company said on Sunday, adding that orders were still going out to customers.

Miners tossed down their tools on Saturday to demand that pit bosses they blame for the recent death of a miner be fired. By Sunday the pit bosses had not been let go and negotiations with the striking workers had not begun.

The mine's general manager resigned but will remain with Codelco, Chief Executive Thomas Keller told reporters.

"We must make it clear that this strike action, on top of being illegal, is totally unjustified," Keller said. "At this point we still have no problem with our delivery schedule over the medium term."

The company late on Saturday declared force majeure at Radomiro Tomic, which produced about one-fourth the company's output last year.

"The amount of production we are losing is substantial," Keller said.

Company executives called a news conference on Sunday to say that they were willing to negotiate with the striking workers.

"We are open to dialogue," Keller said. "We have always maintained open channels of communication and we hope that those channels remains open."

Miner Nelson Barria died in a March 23 landslide at Radomiro Tomic, which was Codelco's most productive mine last year with 428,000 metric tons (471,789 tons) of copper produced.

The local miners union says the work stoppage will continue until a solution is reached.

Codelco's output skidded 5.1 percent last year due to dwindling performance at its massive, ageing deposits in northern Chile, which dragged down production to its lowest level since 2008.

(Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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