Copper price falls as Chile brings 1.6mt back on line – bt Frik Els ( – March 27, 2015)

Some 1.6 million tonnes of copper capacity is being restarted in Chile following torrential rains in the north of country which halted production at a number of the country’s largest operations.

The price of copper in New York fell on the news with May futures trading on the Comex market giving up 1.8% to $2.756 a pound. Copper is down 7.6% compared to a year ago, but up sharply from five-and-half-year lows struck in January.

Chile is responsible for a third of the world’s mined output of copper with many of the largest mines located in the Atacama desert. Before the unusual weather this week, a drought was reducing production as a result of water restrictions imposed by the authorities. In April 2014 a major earthquake also temporarily halted output at a number of large mines.

State-owned giant Codelco confirmed it had restarted mining operations at its Chuquicamata, Ministro Hales, Radomiro Tomic, Gabriela Mistral, and Salvador mines after a three-day hiatus due to the state of access roads, power problems and safety concerns following the downpours.

Codelco was forecast to produce 1.6 million tonnes of copper this year – already down 5% from 2014 – and the affected mines represented some 60% of the Santiago-based company’s production capacity.

Other mines suspended after the rains included Antofagasta’s Michilla mine and Centinela copper complex (its largest operation Los Pelambres wasn’t affected), Anglo American’s Mantoverde and Mantos Blancos, Lundin Mining’s recently acquired Candelaria and Barrick Gold’s Zaldivar.

BHP Billiton, operator of the world’s largest copper mine Escondida, said mining was not affected while Chile’s number two operation Collahuasi, owned by Anglo and Glencore also operated throughout the period.

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