Strike At Peru's Antamina To Support Copper Prices?

Strike at Peru's Antamina to Support Copper Prices?On Monday, workers at Peru's Antamina copper mine downed tools, beginning the first indefinite strike in the mine's history. Operations have been partially affected at the mine, and as the largest copper mine in Peru, it's unclear whether the disruption will help boost copper prices.

According to Reuters, members of the mine's labor union, SUTRACOMASA, finalized plans to go on strike last week after talks regarding compensation broke down last Tuesday. Antamina — which is jointly owned by BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT) (33.75 percent), Glencore Xstrata (LSE:GLEN) (33.75 percent), Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B,NYSE:TCK) (22.5 percent) and Mitsubishi (TSE:8058) (10 percent) — currently has a profit-sharing agreement with mine workers, but with profits declining due to falling production and lower prices, the workers are calling for a bonus instead.

Lower production, differing stories

Copper production at Antamina has dipped due to lower grades this year, but the mine has still been running at an impressive rate of 30,000 tonnes per month. However, as Stefan Ioannou of Haywood Securities explained to Copper Investing News, while the mine is responsible for one-third of Peru's copper production — and is also the country's biggest zinc mine — it's important to remember that Peru in turn is responsible for about 8 percent of copper production worldwide.

"On a global scale, about 2 to 3 percent of global supply comes out of Antamina on the copper side of things, " the analyst said. "It's a significant mine for sure." Still, with production slowing and profits decreasing, there's definitely less to go around.

SUTRACOMASA, which represents roughly 1,630 out of 2,860 workers at the mine, has said that the strike will have a significant effect on the mine's production. Spokesman Hernan Robles told Reuters by phone, "[t]he mine cannot send minerals to ports through its mineral pipeline or for that matter send shipments."

However, according to The Wall Street Journal, Antamina has said that operations have been only partially affected, noting that "[w]ork is being done as planned and in line with a contingency plan prepared for this situation." The miner also said that the local government's labor office has declared the strike illegal and thus it has not broken any labor right or agreement.

Effects unclear

For now, the strike is peaceful, and Ioannu stated that at this stage, it's still unclear how it could affect copper prices. Case in point: on Monday, copper futures hit a high of $3.051 per pound on the New York COMEX, and though FXStreet has pointed to the strike as lending support to the metal, the Haywood analyst said that it's still "early days," and there's no telling how long the strike will go on or how the conflict will develop.

Whether the strike gets resolved quickly or whether it becomes a long, drawn-out affair will of course be key to how much the copper price gets affected. However, Ioannou did state, "the fact that the government stepped up right away and said 'this is an illegal strike' probably doesn't bode well for the strike."

Either way, copper investors will be watching closely to see what happens next.

Company news

Last Monday, AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU) announced its maiden resource for the Nuevo Chaquiro deposit in the Quebradona project area. Quebradona is a joint venture with B2Gold (TSX:BTO). The resource came in at 604 million tonnes with an average grade of 0.65 percent copper, 0.32 grams per tonne gold, 4.38 grams per tonne silver and 116 parts per million molybdenum.

Also last week, Nevada Copper (TSX:NCU) commenced an updated feasibility study for its Pumpkin Hollow project in Nevada. The company expects to complete the updated study in the first quarter of 2015.

Wednesday, Tintina Resources (TSXV:TAU) began a new round of drilling at its Black Butte copper project in Montana. The program will focus on further testing of the upper and lower zones of the Johnny Lee deposit, and will include nine holes for a total of 2,652 meters.

Lastly, Puma Exploration (TSXV:PUM) announced the start of a 1,000-meter drill program at its Turgeon deposit in New Brunswick. Drilling will focus on the Dragon zone, a newly discovered area, with the aim of discovering additional higher grade copper-zinc mineralization.


Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Strike at Peru's Antamina to Support Copper Prices? from Copper Investing News