Codelco copper shipments hit by spreading strike at Chilean ports

A 10-day strike at the port of Angamos in Chile's northern region, affecting copper shipments from world’s No. 1 producer Codelco, expanded Wednesday to another nine ports, La Tercera reports (in Spanish).

The terminals joining Angamos’ labour action include Antofagasta, Huasco, Chañaral, Guacolda 1, Guacolda 2, San Antonio, San Vicente, Coronel and Talcahuano, which pretty much covers all the main points of exit for copper produced by the state-owned miner, from the very north of Chile to the central-south end.

Codelco already had to reschedule shipments from Angamos on Tuesday, La Tercera reported, adding the company did not comment on how many tonnes were involved or when shipments may resume.

“The ports are receiving [copper] but they are not shipping it,” was the only comment a company official was able to give

The port of Angamos handles copper cathode shipments from Codelco’s Chuquicamata, Gaby and Radomiro Tomic mines, as well as some stocks coming from BHP Billiton Ltd. (ASX, NYSE:BHP)’s Escondida and Spence mines. Codelco backed construction of Angamos in the late '90s to lower its reliance on Antofagasta’s port.

The company expects its copper output to reach around 1.7 million tonnes this year, boosted by the launch of its Ministro Hales mine.

But the copper giant might find the goal hard to reach since it is also facing an impending internal strike by its unionized workers, who last week threatened to stage a 24-hour stoppage at all of Codelco's units in demand for greater job security.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, from January to September 2012 Codelco sold 36% of its copper to China, 22% to the rest of Asia, 18% to Europe, 12% to neighbouring South American countries and 11% to North America.

The company, owner of over 11% of the world's copper reserves, was hit by a one-day strike in July 2011 that cost it $40 million.

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