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Codelco Says Port Strike Impedes 30,000 Tons of Copper Shipments

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, is accumulating a stockpile of refined metal amid a 13-day strike at the Angamos port in the Atacama Desert, restricting the availability of the metal.

Codelco has stored about 30,000 metric tons that was due to be shipped from the Pacific Coast port, Chief Financial Officer Ivan Arriagada told reporters in Santiago today.

The stockpile is about 5 percent of all copper held in warehouses monitored by the London Metal Exchange and represents about 2 percent of Codelco’s yearly production. Workers at several ports across the country have gone on strike in solidarity with the Angamos stevedores who continue to disagree with the port operator over terms of lunch breaks and catering facilities. They failed to reach an agreement after meeting Deputy Labor Minister Bruno Baranda today.

“It’s tough for me to understand stoppages out of solidarity,” Finance Minister Felipe Larrain told reporters in Santiago today about the spread in port strikes. “We hope that at this point in time, which is so important to our country, they act responsibly and that we can have normal exports.”

Workers will continue to block the Angamos port until their demands are met, union leader Richard Orellana said by telephone today after meeting Baranda. Port operator Ultraport SA said in a statement yesterday that four other unions at Angamos had accepted terms.

Codelco uses Angamos to export refined copper from its Chuquicamata, Gabriela Mistral and Radomiro Tomic mines. BHP Billiton Ltd. also uses the port to ship material from its Spence mine. China buys about a third of Codelco’s copper.

Output Falls

The state-owned miner reported a 5.1 percent drop in annual output on lower ore grades at its aging mines.

The century-old Chuquicamata mine posted a 20 percent output slump, dragging down the company’s production to 1.647 million tons from 1.735 million tons in 2011, according to a presentation delivered at its Santiago headquarters. Output including Codelco’s share of the El Abra and Anglo Sur mines, slid to 1.758 million tons from 1.796 million tons.

Chief Executive Officer Thomas Keller is spending a record $25 billion to retain Codelco’s No.1 producer status as the state-owned company stops mining in pits exhausted of profitable ore and taps new areas. Overall copper content fell to 0.73 percent last year from 0.8 percent in 2011.

Codelco had capital expenditure of $4.1 billion last year and said its Ministro Hales project is 78.5 percent complete. The company achieved the milestone of handing over $100 billion to the state over its history, Keller said.

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