‘On the edge’: Chile copper production at risk as coronavirus bites

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s vaunted copper industry is nearing a tipping point as coronavirus explodes across the South American nation, mine workers and analysts say, laying bare the hidden costs of policies that have until now salvaged its output of the red metal. Since early April leading miners, including state-owned Codelco, BHP (BHP.AX), Anglo American (AAL.L), Glencore (GLEN.L) and Antofagasta (ANTO.L) have doubled down with skeleton crews in the world’s largest copper producer, churning out more amid the pandemic than the year before. But cracks are beginning to show, union leaders told Reuters. Patricio Elgueta, president of Chile’s Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), an umbrella group for Codelco’s unions, said miners are exhausted and scared of falling ill but keep working to make ends meet. Elgueta said unions were weighing a proposal from a regional roundtable of healthworkers, politicians and social groups to draw down production to a “minimum” at all of the mines around the hard-hit city of Calama in order to sanitize them. The Antofagasta region, where Calama is located, accounts for more than half of Chile’s mine production, according to state copper agency statistics. Meanwhile, Elgueta said emphasis at the major mines had necessarily shifted to processing… continue reading

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