Codelco ready to resume operations at Chuquicamata despite torrential rains

The world’s No. 1 copper producer, Codelco, issued a statement this Saturday saying that it is ready to restart operations at the Chuquicamata mine in northern Chile, following a suspension prompted by severe rains.

In the press release, Codelco explained that its plan is to gradually restore operations. Therefore, it called on employees scheduled to work on Saturday to be at their posts starting at 13 hrs. local time.

According to the company, despite the torrential rains, the Talabre tailings dam remains in normal conditions, an observation that was corroborated by officers from the National Service of Geology and Mining that visited the plant.

Codelco said that, however, the extraction and leaching division was affected by rain and mud so it might take a while to resume activities in that area. A similar situation is taking place at the acid plants project, where cleanup efforts are underway.

Meanwhile, at the underground Chuquicamata project area, electricity has been cut. Workers also had to leave their camps because rain was leaking into their rooms.

The recovery of this area is key for Codelco, as the $4.9 billion transformation of the massive open pit into an underground mine is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

The state-owned company also reported that its Radomiro Tomic, Gabriela Mistral and Ministro Hales mines are operating with “with relative normalcy,” although precautionary measures have been taken.

The wet season in the austral summer has caused havoc in northern Chile. According to President Sebastián Piñera, torrential rains have killed six people, destroyed close to 100 houses, pushed hundreds out of their homes, ruined agricultural land and endangered 15,000 heads of cattle.

The Official Meteorological Service of Chile forecasted normal to moderate rains for the next few hours and thunderstorms in the northern region.