SANTIAGO, Jan 20 About 14 ports in Chile are on strike, curbing metal, fruit and other shipments from the world's top copper producer. The northern port of Angamos kicked off a stoppage in late December to protest for stronger union organizing rights. The labor action then spread. Ports joined in solidarity and in protest for what they say is police brutality against striking workers. Some workers have since returned to work in Angamos after police helped free up access to the port. But that infuriated unions, and led the strike movement to gather pace. Workers at the copper-exporting ports of Antofagasta and Iquique have downed tools, with no indication of how long the action may last. Many of the other striking ports are in the southern, agricultural part of Chile which barely produces metal. The stoppage has hit grape, apple and berry farmers right in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere's summer. An extra week of strikes will cost fruit exporters around $70 million, according to fruit association Fedefruta. Most of Chile's copper, which accounts for roughly a third of the world's supply, leaves from its northern and central ports on the Pacific Ocean, often destined for consumption in top customer China. Chile's public ports, which dispatch roughly half of the country's copper, export about 9,500 tonnes of copper a day, according to the Mining Ministry. Chile produced 5.3 million tonnes of copper and exported around $37 billion of the metal in the January to November period, according to central bank and government data. Miners, including world No.1 copper producer Codelco and London-listed Antofagasta Minerals, have been affected by the port strikes. The Mining Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Cochilco copper commission and Customs said they did not have figures showing how much copper is exported per port. Below is a profile of some of the ports still on strike, based on information from port operators: ANTOFAGASTA, Antofagasta region, northern Chile: Union workers at the port of Antofagasta went on strike on Jan. 6. In 2012, they exported 1.1 million tonnes of copper cathodes and 235,433 tonnes of copper concentrate. IQUIQUE, Tarapaca region, northern Chile: Union workers at the port of Iquique went on strike on Jan. 6. They exported 166,342 tonnes of copper in the January to November period. SAN ANTONIO, Valparaiso region, central Chile Union workers at the port of San Antonio went on strike on Jan. 4 to ask for a retroactive lunch subsidy they say the government promised them. They exported 258 tonnes of copper in the January to September period. BIO BIO PORTS, Bio Bio region, southern Chile The ports in the Bio Bio region dropped their strike last week after signs of a deal. However, they launched a fresh labor action on Tuesday in protest over police involvement in the port stoppage. Bio Bio ports do not handle copper, but export products from Chile's south, which is more focused on agriculture, forestry and fishing. (Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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