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Protests slow output at Chile's Pelambres copper mine

SANTIAGO, March 8 (Reuters) - Output at the Pelambres mine of Chilean copper miner Antofagasta Plc (Other OTC: ANFGF - news) has been reduced by about 5,000 tonnes in the past week due to protests by local villagers who have blocked access to the mining complex, Pelambres said on Sunday.

It said a small number of demonstrators from the Choapa Valley, where some local communities blame the mine for water shortages, had hampered normal operations but had not forced a shutdown of the mine.

"Preliminary indications are that the disruptions have reduced copper output by about 5,000 tonnes," Pelambres said. The mine, located about 200 kilometers north of Santiago, produced about 405,000 tonnes of copper in 2014.

The company said some workers had been airlifted into the mine complex to minimize the disruption.

"Pelambres is working to find alternatives to mitigate the impact on production during the rest of the year," it said of what it was doing to pre-empt further possible demonstrations.

The government intervened in the long-running dispute on Thursday in an attempt to re-open traffic on the mine's access road, but the negotiations broke down on Saturday night.

"They are a small group of protesters who do not necessarily represent the Choapa Valley communities and want Pelambres and the regional government to take measures to mitigate the impact of the drought," Pelambres said. (Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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