Copper Exports Delayed as Chile Port Strike Enters Fifth Day

Copper exports slowed from the world’s top producer of the metal as a port strike in northern Chile entered its fifth day.

Some workers at the port of Angamos in the Antofagasta region started striking March 16 to push for better conditions, blocking others from entering the area. The unrest has delayed the loading of copper from Codelco onto one vessel, an official from the state-owned miner said by telephone today.

Codelco managed to deliver copper to be stored at the port today after attempts were blocked March 19, said the official, who declined to be named because of internal policy. The strike threatens to spread to other ports in Chile after talks with the government and port operator last night failed to end the conflict, a union representative said.

“The port isn’t operating and no neighboring port will receive our shipments,” the representative, Roberto Portales, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “There is no deadline to end the protest.”

The Codelco official briefed on the matter didn’t specify the volume of copper shipments that had been delayed during the protests. The strike is preventing two ships from leaving the port, which normally handles 10 or more ships on a weekly basis, union President Richard Orellana said by phone today.

“There are zero exports,” he said. “This will last until we get what we’re asking.”

Copper Cathode

Angamos handles copper cathode shipments from Codelco’s Chuquicamata, Gaby and Radomiro Tomic mines as well as some supplies from BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Escondida and Spence mines. Codelco supported construction of the port a decade ago to reduce its dependence on the port of Antofagasta.

China is the largest consumer of Codelco’s copper, accounting for about one-third of the company’s refined copper sales. Copper futures for delivery in May advanced 1.2 percent to settle at $3.4465 a pound at 1:13 p.m. on the Comex in New York, the biggest gain since Feb. 1. Prices yesterday slid to $3.388, the lowest for a most-active contract since Aug. 21.

The stoppage at Angamos in the city of Mejillones started a day after Codelco’s workers declared their intention to go on strike for a 24-hour period within the next 30 days to protest the use of subcontractors in Chilean mines.

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