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UPDATE 3-Chile slowly restarts top copper mines hit by quake
February 28, 2010 / 1:11 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-Chile slowly restarts top copper mines hit by quake

(For full coverage, click on [ID:nCHILE])

* Teniente, biggest mine halted, restarts extraction

* Export routes said in good condition from 400ktpy mine

* Codelco’s smaller Andina could also resume operations

* Awaiting word on Los Bronces; copper prices set to rise (Updates with Teniente resumption, details)

SANTIAGO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Chile’s biggest copper mines hit by a massive quake slowly resumed operations on Sunday despite limited power supplies, which analysts fear could curtail exports from the world’s No. 1 producer.

Ricardo Alvarez, manager at Chile’s fourth largest mine El Teniente, which accounts for more than 7 percent of national output, told Reuters the recovery pace of output would depend on the supply of electricity that was currently partial.

“As they (regional grid) allow us to use more power we will resume other operations,” said Alvarez, who added those operations included the concentrator and Caletones smelter.

The quake killed more than 700 people and had forced Codelco to shut the El Teniente complex as well as its Andina copper mine, while Anglo-American (AAL.L) shut its Los Bronces and El Soldado mines, outages that halted around one-fifth of Chile’s total production.

He added that the mine could slow the extraction of minerals if power supply lags.

Alvarez said earlier facilities were undamaged in the 8.8 magnitude quake on Saturday and that roads to the exporting port of San Antonio were in good condition.

The century-old 400,000 tonne per year El Teniente is the world’s biggest underground copper mine.

Another Codelco official said earlier the nearby 210,000 tonne Andina mine was likely to resume operations by day’s end.

There was no information available on Sunday on the Anglo-American mines, which together produce some 280,000 tonnes a year. For more details see: [ID:nN27183634]

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 analysts feared that supply disruptions from the mid-sized deposits nearer the capital Santiago would be enough to stoke prices on Monday.

For a graphic showing the location of the earthquake, click on: here

“While it appears that a modest proportion of production has been halted, the major impact may come from the disruption on deliveries from the mines and from the disruption of power supplies to the mines,” said Citi analyst David Thurtell.

A Codelco spokeswoman downplayed infrastructure impact, saying most of the road destruction was south of both mines and that she drove on Saturday from a beach near the San Antonio port to near El Teniente.

An Anglo American spokesman in Chile said on Saturday that blocked roads leading to Los Bronces mine could be cleared rapidly. He added that the mine and El Soldado had no initial reports of major damages.

Both of Chile’s main oil refineries were shut after sustaining damage in the quake, state oil company ENAP said on Saturday, adding that it would import diesel to meet demand. Prolonged power outages could significantly increase demand for liquid fuel to help keep the mines operating.

The central copper-exporting port of San Antonio had been shut down on Saturday, but the major northern ports of Antofagasta and Mejillones were unaffected.

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc (FCX.N) said on Saturday that the quake did not damage its two mines, but it is facing a power outage at its Candelaria mine, which will result in a temporary shutdown. [ID:nWEN0976] (Reporting by Alonso Soto; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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