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Chile copper mines brace for more bad weather

The BHP Billiton Escondida copper mine, 170 km (105 miles) southest of Antofagasta, Chile, is seen in this aerial handout photograph obtained February 10, 2010.

BHPBillinton Handout/Reuters/BHPBillinton Handout/Reuters

Two of the world's top copper mines Friday braced for more bad weather in Chile's copper-rich north, halting some operations or working under a contingency plan, executives and union leaders said.

The world's number 3 copper mine Collahuasi will work under a contingency plan on Friday and over the weekend after heavy snow hit operations earlier this week, the mine operator spokeswoman Bernardita Fernandez said in an e-mail statement.

She said the deposit was still normalizing operations.

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The rare five-day cold snap hitting an area that produces about 20 per cent of the world's mined copper is expected to intensify on Friday before it dissipates over the weekend, weather forecasters said.

Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, halted extraction operations for a second day after heavy rains made the roads in the open-pit deposit dangerously slippery, union leader Luis Valdes told Reuters.

Still, the 1 million tonne-per-year mine, majority owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. , was able to process mineral at its plants, Mr. Valdes said.

Codelco's copper operations, Chuquicamata and Radomiro Tomic, which produce together about 900,000 tonnes last year, were operating normally despite some scattered rains, company officials said.

Weather problems in Chile and the planned 24-hour strike by workers at Codelco have helped lift copper prices in London to over three-month highs this week.

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