March 1, 2010 / 3:47 PM / 8 years ago

Mines struggle back to life in quake-ravaged Chile

NEW YORK, March 1 (Reuters) - Chile’s mines and seaports were struggling to get up and running early Monday, two days after a massive earthquake disrupted commodity production in the world’s top copper supplier, as damage to the power grid hindered a return to normal operations.

The price of copper initially jumped more than 5 percent when markets opened on Monday, after Saturday’s 8.8 magnitude quake, one of the largest on record, closed up to a fifth of copper mine capacity in Chile.

Despite severe damage to Chile’s infrastructure, the market impact on supply from a crucial producer of metals, not to mention agriculture goods and forestry products, appeared to have been limited.

The mines most affected were south of Santiago, near where the quake was centered off the coast of Chile.

State-owned Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer, reported Monday that its Andina mine was still shut. But its massive El Teniente underground mine, which accounts for more than 7 percent of Chile’s copper, restarted on Sunday.

U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan (FCX.N) said its Candelaria mine, northeast of Santiago, was restoring operations to normal levels, although the power supply was still unsettled.

“At Candelaria, reliable power is the issue there. It went out on Saturday and as of reports today that is being restored,” Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson told an investor conference hosted by BMO Capital Markets.

Antofagasta PLC (ANTO.L) said Monday power was restored at the Los Pelambres mine and that the mine was coming back on line as of Sunday.

Anglo American PLC (AAL.L) said on Monday production was affected at the Los Bronces, El Soldado and Mantoverde mines and the Chagres copper smelter. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

To see a map locating Chile's major copper mines and the quake epicenter, see: link.reuters.com/qug92j ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Chilean ports were also restarting operations on Monday

Denis Yanez, the head of a national confederation of port workers, said the copper exporting port of San Antonio was scheduled to restart operations at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).

He said the major port of Valparaiso started receiving shipments on Sunday and was expected to increase its load later on Monday.

Chilean fertilizer, lithium and iodine producer Soquimich (SQM.N) said it sustained no damage to local facilities following the earthquake.

Iron ore producer CAP CAP.SN said Monday it was forced to close its southern Huachipato steel unit and that repairing the damage will take at least 3 months to get output back to normal.

BG Group BG.L said Monday the Quintero liquefied natural gas terminal in Chile was not accepting vessels after the loading arms at the terminal jetty were damaged by Saturday’s quake.

The biggest mines in Chile, which produces a third of the world’s copper, are about 1,000 km (600 miles) to the north and were spared any damage, but interruption of supply from the mid-sized deposits nearer the capital were sufficient to send 3-month copper MCU3 up 5.6 percent in early trading on the London Metal Exchange.

At 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT) May copper HGK0 at the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange was up 6.60 cents, or 2 percent, at $3.35 a lb. (Writing by Alden Bentley; additional reporting by Alonso Soto in Santiago, Carole Vaporean and Edward McAllister in New York, Rebekah Curtis in London; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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