A strike over pay at Papua New Guinea's Ok Tedi mine, which is now in its third week, has reportedly cost the operator more than 30 million US dollars so far.
The company, OK Tedi Mining Limited, is now threatening to sack more than 1,500 staff who downed tools on April the 1st in the dispute, saying the strike puts its future at risk.
Its managing director, Alan Breen, says the Industrial Registrar has declared the strike illegal.
He says if employees now choose not to return to work, the company has no option but to exercise its legal rights and dismiss those still on strike.
The general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, John Paska, says pay disparities between regular workers and senior managers are as wide as the Pacific Ocean.
A three-day meeting this week between the company, unions and the government has failed so far to resolve the strike.