Authorities lifted tsunami warnings for Chile’s long coastline early Wednesday after a massive earthquake of magnitude 8.2 struck off the northern coast of the country on Tuesday night, causing six deaths and triggering a tsunami that pounded the shore with two-metre-tall waves.
According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake’s centre was located at 20.1 km below the seabed and struck about 100 km northwest of the mining port of Iquique, near the border with Peru.
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.
The quake-struck area had been on high alert in recent weeks after an unusual number of tremors. A series of aftershocks further frayed nerves in the early hours of Wednesday, despite Chileans tend to react calmly to these events. They are unfortunately used to earthquakes: three of the 10 largest ever recorded have been in the copper-rich country.
World prices for the red metal jumped as the quake raised supply concerns because most copper mines are in the northern regions.
Three-month copper contract on the London Metal Exchange went up by more than 1% to $6,728.75 a metric ton, the highest since March 10. More recently the metal had slipped back to $6,692 a ton. Aluminum prices tracked copper, rising 1% on the day to $1,814.25 a ton.
Later in the day, the industrial metal pulled back to stand at $6,697.75 in London.
See here how some Chileans reacted during the earthquake: