* No hints of prompt end to strikes in export-dependent
* No.1 copper producer Codelco, Anglo among miners affected
* Chile copper accounts for a third of world output
* Most fruit growers say will stop harvesting on Friday
SANTIAGO, April 3 Rapidly spreading port strikes
in export-dependent Chile are taking a growing toll on copper,
fruit and wood pulp shipments in the world's leading red metal
producer, mining and export sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
World No.1 copper miner Codelco has said nearly
60,000 tonnes of its copper is blocked, equivalent to around
$500 million in revenue. Global miner Anglo American
told Reuters the port strikes have triggered "difficulties for
The strikes are a major headache for many of Chile's miners,
which produce roughly a third of the world's copper and provide
around 60 percent of Chile's export revenue, which is seen at
$79.8 billion this year.
The Angamos port in Mejillones launched a strike about three
weeks ago to seek a 30-minute lunch break, and other ports have
since joined the work stoppage in solidarity.
"This strike can end today or it can last 10 more days,"
Angamos union leader Enrique Solar told Reuters.
Chile is losing more than $200 million a day due to the
conflict, according to the country's business chamber.
Roughly 70,000 tonnes of copper are detained at the Angamos
port and around 16,000 tonnes are trapped at the Antofagasta
port, both in Chile's north, according to one Chile-based
trader. It was not clear how much total copper is currently
blocked in the Andean country's ports.
One shift of workers at the Valparaiso port joined the
strike movement on Wednesday, bringing operations there to "half
steam," a port worker told Reuters. The ports of Iquique,
Antofagasta, Huasco, Caldera, San Antonio and around six smaller
ports in the southern Bio Bio region are already on strike, a
union leader said.
The port of Arica in the copper-producing North could also
join the strike, Iquique port union leader Cesar Luna told
Reuters. Around eight boats are waiting in front of the Northern
port of Iquique and six are bidding time in Mejillones, Luna
said, adding some ships had been re-routed to Peru.
Another trader in the Andean country said he didn't know of
any miners who have been forced to buy metal on the spot market
to meet their contract obligations.
"Even if the issue is solved, this is going to generate huge
congestion," a trader said. "The ones in the most critical
situation are the smaller miners."
Miners BHP Billiton and Xstrata, who also
operate in Chile's mineral-rich North, were not immediately
available for comment.
World No.3 copper mine Collahuasi said it
had not been affected by the strike.
The strike comes as state copper miner Codelco is also
facing a potential 24-hour work stoppage at all its divisions
Experts say presidential elections in November have also
contributed to an uptick in labor unrest.
A move by commodity trader Trafigura to ramp up rental
revenues by drawing Europe's spare copper into its warehouses in
Antwerp has combined with a Chilean port strike to push Europe
copper premiums near triple-digit levels, Reuters reported last
The supply-curtailing strike comes at a tough moment for
copper prices, which fell to their lowest in more than
seven months for a second session on Wednesday, on worries about
FRUIT, WOOD PULP ALSO HIT
In addition to mining metal, Chile is also a big producer of
wood pulp, fruits, wine and salmon.
Fruit growers in most of Chile's central-southern regions
will temporarily halt harvesting as of Friday, as some 1,600
containers sit at the San Antonio port and producers' losses
already total some $50 million, fruit trade group Fedefruta
Those losses could climb to $400 million if the strike
continues through April, the group added.
Meanwhile, three of forestry and paper company CMPC's
units have suspended exports, with 42,000 tonnes of
wood pulp waiting to be put on ships, the company's general
secretary Gonzalo Garcia said.
"We calculate that the effects of this strike will be felt
two months after operations have restarted because the traffic
jam at ports will be huge and there will be a long line to load
ships," Garcia said.