UPDATE 1-Most Chilean ports back to normal but strike resumption possible

Sat Apr 6, 2013 9:07pm EDT

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SANTIAGO, April 6 (Reuters) - Most ports in Chile were returning to normal operations on Saturday after an extended strike that slammed the No. 1 copper producer's exports, but the central port of San Antonio remained closed, a union leader told Reuters on Saturday night.

If workers at San Antonio do not reach a deal by Tuesday, the rest of port workers will resume their strike in solidarity, Richard Orellana, head of the Angamos port union, told Reuters.

Workers at the key port of Angamos in the mineral-rich north returned to work on Saturday as of 3:30 p.m. local time (1830 GMT), he said.

Calls to the San Antonio union went unanswered. Local media quoted the agriculture minister as saying the port would return to normal activities on Sunday.

Mining industry sources say it will take weeks to return to normal shipping operations because of the congestion in ports. Other Chilean ports had joined the strike in Angamos, which started roughly three weeks ago.

Angamos workers walked off the job to seek a 30-minute lunch break and other benefits. That dispute over relatively minor issues escalated into a crisis for export-dependent Chile.

The stoppage proved a major headache for many of Chile's miners, who extract roughly a third of the world's copper. The metal provides around 60 percent of Chile's export revenue, estimated at $79.8 billion this year.

The strike halted around 9,000 tonnes of copper from leaving Chilean ports every day, the government has said.

The Andean country lost more than $200 million a day due to the strike, according to the country's business chamber.

For more on the port strike, please see:

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