Thieves Pull Off Massive Copper Heist In Chile’s San Antonio Port
A gang has pulled off a massive copper heist at Chile’s main seaport, authorities confirmed on Wednesday.
A statement from local prosecutor Juan Carlos Catalan recounted that in the wee hours of Tuesday, 10 armed men entered the San Antonio port and stole 13 shipping containers belonging to the state-owned copper giant, Codelco. 12 of the 13 containers reportedly had about $4.4 million worth of copper in total.
The thieves also attacked one guard and four workers at the site. They were “tied up and beat and left locked up,” according to Catalan, adding that authorities are examining security footage, and no suspects have been detained.
Wednesday’s heist is the largest since a series of gang-related copper robberies in Northern Chile in October. The October robberies were focused on trains carrying copper cathodes, which forced producers like Codelco to evaluate safer ways of moving their product.
While authorities believe the train robberies were done by international crime groups, the port heist might have been executed by a local gang.
“It is a gang that may be working in San Antonio because we have other crimes with similar characteristics,” local police captain Gonzalo Garcia told Radio Cooperativa. The heist, which involved a number of trucks to successfully transport the containers away from the port, seemed to have been carefully planned and coordinated.
“They cut off the security cameras and once the cameras were cut off, the other part of the gang went in to intimidate the guards and the workers,” Garcia said.
Organized criminal groups have long targeted Chile, the world’s largest copper producer. The incident at the San Antonio port will further increase pressure on the government to ensure the security of copper transport.
Codelco told Reuters that the stolen copper was scheduled to be exported and was insured.
READ: Are Copper Prices Going to Rip in 2023?
The Chilean government will need to tighten security, especially as global supplies are expected to be tight for a while. Analysts are predicting that copper prices will jump this year, with a high likelihood of soaring past the record high of US$10,845 per ton in March 2022, thanks to a combination of a supply squeeze and the long-term demand created by the energy transition.
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