April 30, 2020 / 2:02 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Chile copper output grows in March even as coronavirus bites

(Adds additional details on mining output, context)

SANTIAGO, April 30 (Reuters) - Chile, the world´s top copper producer, boosted its output of the red metal in March versus the previous period, according to government data released on Thursday, even as the coronavirus outbreak spread quickly across the mineral-rich South American nation.

Copper production grew 4.2% in March, hitting 498,083 tonnes. Manufacturing output also grew 0.6% in March compared with the previous year, beating expectations, while overall mining output grew 2.3%.

Some analysts, however, caution that the worst is yet to come, as restrictions to combat the pandemic have toughened across much of the country through April.

Chile, among Latin America´s most stable economies, has reported more than 15,000 cases and more than 200 deaths.

Economists widely predict a sharp contraction of Chile´s gross domestic product in 2020 and double-digit unemployment by year´s end.

Chile´s mining minister said on Wednesday the South American nation´s sprawling copper industry so far ranks among the least affected globally by the COVID-19 pandemic, citing official figures that point to a reduction in output of just 1% by year´s end. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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