A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Chile again late on Wednesday, triggering a precautionary tsunami alert along the coast, already cancelled, and forcing the evacuation of President Michelle Bachelet.
The aftershock was the strongest of several that have followed a massive 8.2-magnitude quake responsible for six deaths in the same region on Tuesday.
Chile’s emergency office (Onemi) said there were no initial reports of casualties or serious damage from the latest quake. However President Bachelet, who had gone to the area to inspect the damage from the earlier quake, was evacuated from her hotel in the city of Arica.
State-owned copper giant Codelco and other major producers of the red metal said their workers suffered no harm and that operations in the area are being carried out as usual. Yet, Anglo American (LON:AAL) and Glencore Xstrata (LON:GLEN) decided to evacuate employees at their massive Collahuasi mine, so they could be with their families, and BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) vacated its Coloso port, which handles ore from Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.
Experts from the U.S. Geological Survey explain aftershocks can continue over a period of weeks, months or even years. In general, the larger the main earthquake, the larger and more numerous the aftershocks, and the longer they will continue.
However, local seismologists believe Tuesday’s earthquake was not the major quake they have long been expecting in this region of Chile, which has not experienced a serious rupture since 1877.
Copper price soars
Tuesday’s quake at the world's largest producer of the metal caused copper prices to jump to a three-week high. While it initially pushed up the three-month copper contract on the London Metal Exchange by more than 1% to $6,728.75 a metric tonne, the price quickly reversed. Then it spiked again later in the day, as US traders began work, to $6,734 a tonne, the highest since March 10.
LME three-month copper closed the day at $6,680 a tonne, up 0.3%from the previous day's closing price.
In the US, the most actively traded contract, copper for May delivery, jumped as high as $3.0740 a pound before closing up 1.1 cents, or 0.4%, at $3.0455 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.