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Ship carrying copper runs aground off Chile

Ship carrying copper runs aground off Chile

A ship carrying copper from mines belonging to BHP Billiton Ltd, Xstrata Plc. and Anglo American Plc. ran aground off Chile while on its way to India.

The Ocean Crown has about 50,000 tonnes of copper concentrate, a raw material used by smelters, BHP spokesman Illtud Harri said on Monday in an email. It has 43,478 tonnes from the company’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, he added.

About 5,000 tonnes of the cargo was from the Collahuasi copper mine in Chile, which is owned by Xstrata and Anglo American, Xstrata spokeswoman Claire Divver said in a telephone interview from London.

The ship ran aground on 9 August and had 25,000 tonnes of concentrate on board, Divver said.

The copper-concentrate market is “extremely tight", according to Macquarie Bank Ltd, Australia’s largest investment bank. The bank raised its copper price forecast by 5.6% for this year and 7.7% for 2008 to reflect the shortage of the raw material, London-based analysts led by Jim Lennon and Adam Rowley said in a report on Monday.

Damage to the ship is “extensive", said Kyriakos Mitsotakis, operational manager of Five Oceans Salvage Consultants Ltd, the Athens-based company handling the salvage operation. Mitsotakis said in a phone interview on Monday that he doesn’t know whether the ship is salvageable or how long the recovery will take.

Indian customers

BHP, which is based in Melbourne, is working with its Indian customers to mitigate any impact from the grounding, Harri said by telephone from London.

He declined to disclose the customers’ identity or comment on whether they may be compensated.

The ownership of concentrate from Collahuasi was transferred at loading and Xstrata isn’t responsible for any loss, Divver said.

American Metal Market reported the ship’s grounding on 10 August, citing people it didn’t name. The ship carried about 40,000 tonnes of concentrate, the industry publication said.

Copper for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange rose $70 (Rs2,849), or 0.9%, to $7,520 a tonne as of 11.03am local time.

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