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Chile maintains copper export levels despite strikes, unrest

Santiago — Protests and strikes that have rocked Chile for the past three weeks have not slowed exports of copper by the world's largest producer of the metal, data showed Thursday.

According to the Central Bank, Chile exported $2.52 billion of copper in October, down 22.5% from the same month of last year and the lowest level since April 2017, when production was hit by a prolonged strike at the giant Escondida mine, reflecting lower copper prices and volumes.

However, weekly data showed no significant variation in exports since a wave of unrest began October 18.

More than 20 people have died, and thousands have been arrested in looting and clashes between police and protesters as Chileans march against rising living costs and social inequality.

Exports during the first two weeks of October totaled $1.14 billion, compared with $1.38 billion in the final fortnight, the data showed.

Port workers throughout Chile have held strikes in sympathy with the protests in Santiago and other major cities. But most ports are now open.

Puerto Angamos, the main export point for copper mines in northern Chile -- last year it exported 1.3 million mt of copper cathode -- has not faced protests, a spokesman told S&P Global Platts late last month.

A spokesman for Lundin Mining told S&P Global Platts Thursday that activities at the Port of Caldera had resumed after protests last month slowed some shipments of concentrates from the company's Candelaria mine

The unrest has impacted the country's giant mining industry with strikes by workers at major mines, including Codelco and Escondida, as well as delays to shift changes and deliveries of key supplies at other operations.

Antofagasta said this week that the unrest, particularly a blockade of the road to its Los Pelambres mine, is expected to reduce annual production by 10,000 mt of copper.

--Tom Azzopardi,

--Edited by Bill Montgomery,