UPDATE 1-Chile's October exports plummet 21% amid unrest, copper, lithium down

(Adds context, value of lithium exports) By Dave Sherwood Nov 7 (Reuters) – Chile’s export revenue plunged by one-fifth to $ 5.3 billion in October, the central bank said on Thursday, an early sign of a faltering economy amid the worst unrest since the South American nation’s return to democracy in 1990. Weeks of sometimes violent protests, riots, arson and looting in Santiago and elsewhere have led to at least 23 deaths and more than $ 1.5 billion in damage to businesses, according to authorities and rights groups. The value of copper exports from the world’s top producer fell by 22% in October to $ 2.5 billion, driven primarily by falling prices for the red metal. Chile’s copper mines have mostly maintained production and kept operations running normally despite weeks of unrest in the country, industry insiders told Reuters this week, though there have been incidents at some operations and uncertainty lingers. The value of lithium carbonate exports, meanwhile, fell 9% to $ 73 million in October. Chile is the world’s No. 2 producer of lithium, a critical ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles. Protesters from indigenous communities around Chile’s Atacama salt flat, among the world’s richest reserves of the ultralight metal, blocked access to lithium operations two weeks ago. Top producer Albemarle said the protests had not impacted production. Chilean miner SQM did not respond to requests for comment. Import revenue also fell 20%, to $ 5.6 billion in October, central bank data showed. October Sept October 2019 2019 2018 Trade balance -$ 307 mln -$ 19 mln -$ 313 mln Exports (billions of $ 5.257 $ 5.205 $ 6.626 dollars) Imports (billions of $ 5.564 $ 5.224 $ 6.939 dollars) Copper export revenue $ 2.515 $ 2.763 $ 3.244 (billions of dollars) (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jason and Bernadette Baum)

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