By Mai Nguyen
SINGAPORE, June 24 (Reuters) - Copper prices advanced on Wednesday in thin volume as rising coronavirus cases among the workforce in the top producing region of South America highlighted supply risks.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rose 0.1% to $5,909.50 a tonne by 0704 GMT, while the most-traded copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange (ShFE) closed up 0.5% to 47,860 yuan ($6,772.90) a tonne.
Miner BHP Group Ltd announced stricter health protocols at the world’s largest copper mine Escondida, while the Chilean government imposed lockdowns for the mines-heavy Antofagasta region from Tuesday.
“Copper is inching up on supply fears as BHP’s massive Chilean mine at Escondida has... its workforce struck down with coronavirus,” said Malcolm Freeman, a director at Kingdom Futures, in a note, noticing low trading volume in Asian trading hours.
Earlier this week, Chilean state miner Codelco announced stricter safety measures and suspended some construction projects after two workers died from COVID-19.
Better-than-expected economic data in Europe and improving U.S. housing and business activity data boosted sentiment, but gains were capped as cases surged in the United States and South America.
* OTHER PRICES: LME zinc rose 0.1% to $2,041 a tonne and lead advanced 0.3% to $1,752.50 a tonne. In Shanghai, aluminium fell 0.5% to 13,605 yuan a tonne and zinc dropped 1% to 16,740 yuan a tonne.
* LEAD: Demand for lead-acid batteries from hospitals and food producers seeking more backup power is helping lead producers weather a collapse in orders from the auto sector.
* ALUMINIUM: China’s aluminium imports more than doubled year-on-year in May, but failed to hit an expected decade-high level, official data showed.
* SHFE: ShFE will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Dragon Boat Festival in China and will reopen on June 29.
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$1 = 7.0664 yuan Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Elaine Hardcastle