SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile, the world’s biggest copper producer, was rocked by a huge magnitude-8.8 earthquake on Saturday, putting at risk operations at several of the country’s mid-sized mines near the capital and oil refineries, but sparing the massive deposits in the north.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck 56 miles northeast of Concepcion -- which is south of Santiago -- at a depth of 22 miles at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT).
For a map showing the epicenter, clickhere
The quake affected the 116,000 barrel pre day (bpd) Bio Bio oil refinery run by state energy firm ENAP, the country’s largest, said Mining Minister Santiago Gonzalez. He told Reuters it would take until Sunday to assess the damage to Bio Biom, which is located just north of the city of Concepcion.
ENAP said the quake had also affected its roughly 100,000 bpd Aconcagua refinery near the capital, and that it would need to increase diesel imports to meet demand. It said it had sufficient gasoline stocks to last two weeks and diesel stocks for 10 days.
MAJOR COPPER MINES AND SMELTERS
As of 1800 GMT, operations at mines producing over 1 million tons a year -- near one-fifth of the country’s total 5.4 million tons last year -- had been suspended by the quake, but they appeared undamaged.
State-run Codelco said its operations were unaffected except for its El Teniente and Andina mines, which were suspended because of electricity cuts after the quake but were otherwise undamaged.
Garcia said Codelco’s 435,000 ton per year Caletones smelter had been halted, and that it could take two days for the mines to resume production.
Anglo-American’s Los Bronces and El Soldado mines together produce around 280,000 tons of copper annually. The company is moving ahead with plans to expand its 238,400 tons of copper-per-year Los Bronces, one of the world’s biggest.
Codelco’s El Teniente, the world’s biggest underground copper mine, had an output of 404,000 tons in 2009. That marked the end of four consecutive years of dwindling output as lower grades at aging mines and labor strikes hit output.
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc said the quake did not damage its two mines in the country, but it is facing a power outage at its Candelaria mine, which will result in a temporary shutdown.
SMALLER MINERS REPORT NO DAMAGE
Smaller miners reported little impact. Barrick Gold Corp and Breakwater said its mines had not been affected. Teck Resources Ltd said the quake had not impacted its Andacollo and Quebrada mines, though they could still be hit by power supply restrictions.
Here is an overview of major mines and smelters in Chile:
Mine Location Operator Output Status KM Dist from
El Teniente 75km S of Santiago Codelco 404,000 ops suspend 240
Andina 50km NE of Santiago Codelco 210,000 ops suspend 320
Los Bronces 65km NE of Santiago Anglo-American 235,000 shut 335
El Soldado 132km N of Santiago Anglo-American 50,000 shut 400
Los Pelambres 200km NE of SantiagoAntofagasta 310,000 n/a 480
Candelaria FreeportMcMoRan185,000 power outage 650
Escondida far north BHP Billiton 780,000 ops normal 750
Collahuasi far north Xstrata/Anglo 435,000 n/a 1,000
Chuquicamata far north Codelco 565,000 ops normal 1,140
Top smelters Near Operator Capacity Status KM Dist from
Caletones El Teniente Codelco 435,000 halted 250
Potrerillos Codelco 195,000 ops normal 750
Altonorte Antofagasta Port Xstrata 268,014 n/a 926
Chuquicamata Chuquicamata Codelco 590,130 ops normal 1,140
* Status as of 1700 GMT on Saturday from Reuters reports.
* Output as of 2009 from Metals Production Database; Teniente/Andina output as of 2009 from company; Bronces/Soldado output as of 2008 from company Website.
* Location is based on company information, public data
* Distance best estimate using company data, Google Maps
Reporting by Alonso Soto and Eduardo Garcia; Additional reporting by Euan Rocha
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