17 de septiembre de 2015 / 0:42 / hace 2 años

UPDATE 3-Codelco, Antofagasta halt copper mines in Chile after quake

* Codelco, Antofagasta suspend ops at two major mines

* Chile is world’s top copper producer

* Quake is latest natural catastrophe to roil mining in Chile (Adds detail throughout)

SANTIAGO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Codelco and Antofagasta PLC suspended operations at two major copper mines in Chile, the world’s top producer of the metal, after a powerful earthquake struck off the coast on Wednesday, threatening over 600,000 tonnes of annual capacity.

Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange rose to two-month highs in early Asian trading as worries about supply disruptions offset lingering concerns over demand from China, the world’s No. 1 consumer, amid copper’s longest rout in years.

State copper miner Codelco halted open-pit operations at its large Andina mine and evacuated workers at its smaller Las Ventanas refining and smelting division, as well as at the two northern ports of Mejillones and Barquito, as a precautionary measure. Andina produced 232,000 tonnes of copper last year.

Antofagasta said it had temporarily closed its flagship Los Pelambres mine, which produced over 400,000 tonnes of copper in 2014, and would wait until daybreak to assess the damage. There were no initial reports of damage to personnel or equipment.

Other producers in the region Anglo American PLC and BHP Billiton, said they were unscathed after the magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast, shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile and Peru.

The quake is the latest natural catastrophe to roil mining in the resource-rich South American nation, which accounts for a third of global copper output.

Heavy rains caused flooding and shut many mines in the north of the country in April.

Codelco has also been hit by repeated strikes by contract workers this year. Last week, it was forced to temporarily halt the concentrator at its massive Chuquicamata mine for security reasons after workers tried to take over the unit.

Analysts previously estimated that between about 1 million and 1.5 million tonnes of annualized global mine supply has been lost due to flooding, droughts, power shortages and low ore grades from Chile to Zambia this year. That is about 5 percent of global annual consumption.

“Anything that has potential to restrict supply will have more of an effect on the price when things pick up,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief investment officer at Sydney’s Ayers Alliance.

A planned expansion at Andina is one of the key pillars of Codelco’s plan to boost production as ore grades decline at its older mines.

Antofagasta’s Los Pelambres has been affected by water shortages and local protesters who have blocked mine access.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Anthony Esposito in Santiago, Chile and Melanie Burton in Sydney; Writing by Josephine Mason in New York; Editing by Richard Lough and Ken Wills

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