Latin America's largest metals processing plant, whose precious metals refinery arm has been hit by a three-week strike, will have enough gold and silver to meet clients' needs for months, the plant's owner, Penoles, said on Monday.
Some 300 striking workers in the gold and silver refinery of Penoles' sprawling MetMex metals complex in northern Mexico laid down tools on Feb. 8 demanding a salary increase of 8 percent or 9 percent.
Two other unionized sections at the plant, representing the bulk of workers, accepted a pay rise of 6 percent plus a 1 percent increase in benefits and a 1 percent one-time payment, and base metals operations are running normally.
Penoles spokesman Leopoldo Lopez said the company was planning to refine gold and silver abroad in Canada, Eastern Europe and South America to fill orders not covered by existing inventories in its warehouses.
The agreements we have are guaranteed in the short and medium term, Lopez said in a telephone interview, adding there was enough material to cover demand for months.
Penoles' precious metals unit Fresnillo, which is listed in London, processes all the gold and silver from its mines at the MetMex plant.
MetMex processes more than 90 percent of all the gold and silver mined in Mexico and produced around 580,000 kgs of silver, 54,000 kgs of gold and 460,000 tonnes of zinc in 2007, according to statistics on Penoles' website.
The union said on Monday they were no closer to resolving the wage dispute with the company and said a 21-year-old miner in another Penoles mine died in a landslide on Sunday.
We are profoundly disturbed by the unsafe conditions, the national mine union said in a statement.
The union has been at the forefront of a 19-month-long strike at the giant Cananea copper mine owned by Grupo Mexico. The dispute began over health and safety concerns but has since been complicated by a dispute between the company and the union's leader. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Carol Bishopric)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved