New fatality at Codelco’s El Teniente copper mine

New fatality at Codelco’s El Teniente copper mine

Codelco's El Teniente, the world’s largest underground copper mine.

Chile-owned copper producer Codelco said Friday (in Spanish) that one contractor working in the construction of the El Teniente ("The Lieutenant") mine’s new level project has died this morning for causes still unclear.

The world’s No.1 copper miner, in the midst of executing a $3.5 billion project that will extend the life of the operation for another 50 years, said it is already investigating the causes the fatal accident.

Preliminary information shows the worker died at around 1:30 am local time, after a rockslide in the area where new tunnels are being constructed. Another contractor died on Oct. 20.

El Teniente, a 110-year-old operation, located about 130 kilometers southeast of the country’s capital Santiago, is the largest underground mine in the world. However as it approaches the end of its productive life and, Codelco has recently announced plans to turn it into an open pit operation.

Late last month President Michelle Bachelet enacted a special law to spur the company’s output, which grants Codelco an extra injection of S$4 billion between 2014 and 2018.

The Santiago-based company, struggling with aging mines and depressed copper prices, is also planning to sell about $8 billion of bonds over the next five years to help finance a nearly $30bn investment program and so maintain its status as the world’s biggest copper producer.

It is estimated that Codelco holds about 9% of the world's known proven and probable reserves and roughly 11% of the global annual copper output with 1.8 million metric tons of production.