Chile copper output plunges during strike

Miners of the Escondida copper mine, on strike, blocking a road outside of Escondida, some 145 km northeast of Antofagasta, Chile, on March 8, 2017

Chile's mining output plunged in February because of a strike over pay at a major copper mine, an economic blow ahead of a presidential election in November, official data showed Thursday.

Chile is the top global producer of the metal and markets were rattled by the 43-day strike at Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine.

The country's overall mining production was down 16.7 percent year on year in February to just under 377,000 tonnes, dragged down by copper, the National Statistics Institute said.

With mining accounting for nearly 10 percent of its economy, Chile has suffered from falling commodities prices in recent years along with other countries in the region.

Chile risks going into recession this quarter after the government said GDP contracted 0.4 percent in the last three months of 2016.

Run by the British-Australian group BHP Billiton, Escondida alone accounts for five percent of world copper output.

The economy has also suffered from major forest fires that swept through the center of the country this year.

With center-left President Michelle Bachelet approaching the end of her term, right-leaning ex-president Sebastian Pinera is the favorite to win the vote on November 19 to succeed her.