Copper Reaches Eight-Week High as Chile Quake Threatens Supply

Copper climbed to an eight-week high as some mines halted operations as a precaution from an 8.3-magnitude earthquake Wednesday, though many of them escaped significant damage and planned to resume operations.

The tremor in Chile, the biggest producer of the metal, struck 34 miles (55 kilometers) outside Illapel in the region of Coquimbo, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner, and Antofagasta Plc said workers were safe and operations undamaged. Tsunamis caused severe damage to the main ports in Coquimbo.

“It just reminded people of potential supply bottlenecks, be it in the way of quakes, floods or poor ore grades,” Edward Meir, an analyst at INTL FCStone Inc. in New York, said in a telephone interview.

Copper for delivery in three months gained 0.2 percent to settle at $5,390 a metric ton ($2.45 a pound) at 5:50 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange. Prices climbed as much as 1.1 percent after news of the earthquake to $5,440.50, the highest since July 22.

Chile Copper Mines Unscathed After Quake
Chile Copper Mines Unscathed After Quake

Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone nations in the world. It was hit by an 8.8-magnitude tremor in February 2010 and in 1960 suffered the largest recorded quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake Wednesday was the sixth-worst in Chile and the world’s strongest this year, Undersecretary of the Interior Mahmud Aleuy said at a news conference, according to the El Mercurio newspaper.

Copper futures for December delivery closed unchanged at $2.452 a pound on the Comex in New York. Zinc, nickel, lead and tin declined on the LME, while aluminum gained.

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