* Top refinery could be down for a month - Mining Min
* Authorities to inspect "every pipe" at refinery
* Aconcagua refinery should restart next week
* No risk seen to mines, energy supply normal
(Recasts, updates with comment from Bio Bio official, mining
By Terry Wade
BIO BIO REFINERY, Chile, March 3 Chile's top
oil refinery, damaged by a devastating earthquake, could be
shut down for a month, which would boost the need for fuel
imports to the world's top copper producer.
The Bio Bio refinery in south-central Chile has remained
down since Saturday's 8.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged the
region, killing more than 800 people, briefly shutting down
copper mines and mangling roads.
Chilean Mining Minister Santiago Gonzalez, who was about to
travel to Bio Bio, told Reuters the 116,000 barrels of oil per
day refinery could be down "for a maximum of a month."
On the outside, the site shows no signs of damage from the
quake, one of the biggest in more than a century. Shift manager
Pedro Villareal said it will take "some time" for operations to
resume, but declined to give an estimated date.
He said the Bio Bio refinery was untouched by giant waves
that nearly wiped out nearby coastal hamlets.
Energy-starved Chile also closed its Aconcagua refinery,
slashing around 220,000 barrels of oil per day in total
Aconcagua is expected to restart next week, state oil
company ENAP said.
"We know there are problems and we are going down there
now," Gonzalez said inside a military plane about to depart to
the quake-hit city of Concepcion, near the refinery.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said earlier that she
sees no risk of fuel shortages. Energy officials have said the
South American country would buy as much fuel as needed to
secure supply. [ID:nN02209214]
ENAP on Tuesday declared force majeure on a crude shipment
from Ecuador's Petroecuador.
Refinery problems are forcing Chile to import more oil
products from Asia and the United States to make up for supply,
boosting markets in those regions. [ID:nSGE6220GX]
MINING: BUSINESS AS USUAL
Gonzalez said he saw no risk to Chile's all-important
copper sector after all the important mines returned to normal
earlier this week, and energy supply was flowing to the
Chile's Codelco, the world's top miner, said it was
exporting normally after the quake, and had no power supply
problems, which had fueled worries over output levels in the
mining powerhouse that lifted world copper prices.
Copper prices are up around 5 percent since markets
reopened Monday after the quake. But a falling dollar eclipsed
worries about supply interruptions from Chile.
The quake knocked down power to key mines from Codelco
[CODEL.UL] and Anglo American, briefly halting about one fifth
of the country's output on Saturday.
Anglo America (AAL.L) had also recovered from the quake.
Affected mines -- Los Bronces, El Soldado and Mantoverde --
sustained only minor damage and restarted on Sunday. The
deposits account to about half of Anglo's annual output of
The company added that its Chagres smelter was due to ramp
up to full production on Wednesday.
But a steel operation in Concepcion had to halt operations.
"At Scaw Metals' plant near Concepcion, considerable damage
has been caused preventing the resumption of operations until
further notice," it said.
(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Alonso Soto in
Santiago; Editing by David Gregorio)