Chile copper output jumps again in April even as coronavirus hammers economy

1st June 2020 By: Reuters

SANTIAGO – South American mining giant Chile churned out more copper in April than the same month the previous year, according to government data released on Friday, even as measures to tame the coronavirus outbreak continued to hammer its economy.

The world´s largest producer of the red metal boosted production by 2.8% in April to 474 880 t versus the same month a year ago, national statistics institute (INE) data showed. The uptick comes despite a small drop in copper processing and falling ore grades at the country´s top mines.

Chile´s sprawling copper industry ranks among the least affected globally by the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has said it expects output to slide just 1%, crediting swift and strict sanitary measures with salvaging production.

Chile´s total production of copper in 2020 through April hit 1.8-million tonnes, up 4.1% from the first four months of 2019.

The economy at large, however, has proven less resilient.

Chilean manufacturing output tumbled 5.9% in April compared with the previous period, INE said, as much of country´s economy remained shuttered and its industry hobbled.

Food production was particularly hard hit, the agency said, with demand battered by the closure of restaurants, banquet halls, casinos and hotels.

The agency separately reported that retail sales in Chile had fallen off by a quarter in April, with shoe and clothes retailers dealt the toughest blows. Supermarkets, an essential business, reported an 8.2% drop in sales, INE said.

Chile, once among Latin America´s most stable economies, is now in the throes of the pandemic, reporting nearly 87 000 total coronavirus cases and 890 deaths. The number of new cases emerging daily has quadrupled in May, to around 4 000 per day.

Economists widely predict a sharp contraction of Chile´s gross domestic product in 2020 and double-digit unemployment by year´s end.