SANTIAGO, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Unionized workers at Chile's Sierra Gorda mine, controlled by KGHM Polska Miedz SA, held contract negotiations on Tuesday with the company, in a bid to avoid a strike at its new deposit, a union leader told Reuters.
Workers voted last week to go on strike, but Chilean law allows for a five-day negotiating period, which is mediated by a special government agency. The government-mediated talks are set to expire this week, unless the parties request an extension.
"We are back at the negotiating table to see if we can get any kind of an improvement," said Humberto Vidaurre, president of Sierra Gorda's Union 2.
"If we don't see any improvement, no advancement on what we're asking for, we're going to strike," Vidaurre added.
The 450-member union is asking for higher salaries as well as improved education, health, housing and transportation benefits. The mine has a total of some 1,100 workers.
Sierra Gorda, a joint venture 55 percent owned by Europe's No. 2 copper miner KGHM and 45 percent by Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd, is slated to produce 120,000 tonnes of copper annually by the end of its first ramp-up phase in 2015.
The Polish state-controlled miner is scheduled to hold a press conference later Tuesday. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)