Codelco Seeks Copper Export Alternatives as Ports Strike Spreads

A strike at the main copper export hub for top producer Codelco’s northern mines is spreading to other Chilean ports as the state-owned company seeks alternatives to ship the metal.

Workers at Antofagasta and Iquique ports in northern Chile went on strike yesterday in solidarity with a 12-day stoppage at Angamos, the main northern harbor for Codelco. Workers at San Antonio, a fruit-handling port in central Chile, also joined the action. Codelco is seeking other ports to export copper cathode produced at its northern mines, an official who can’t be named because of company policy said in an e-mailed response to questions today.

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.

Ultraport SA, the operator of the Angamos port through its unit Complejo Portuario Mejillones, held talks to end the 12-day strike yesterday, the Codelco official said.

Ultraport, which operates 20 ports in the South American country, said 70 percent of dockworkers at Angamos have accepted improved pay conditions and only one of five unions is holding out for a better deal, according to an e-mailed statement.

Copper declined 0.5 percent to $7,583 a ton at 2:19 p.m. in London and the metal for delivery in May slipped 0.4 percent to $3.43 a pound on the Comex exchange in New York.

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