Chile’s floods: What others are not telling you
After the unusual and massive storms that last week flooded Chile’s Atacama Desert, heart of the country’s copper industry, announcements of temporary closures made investors nervous.
The violent muddy water that came from the near Andes mountains destroyed roads, villages, crops leaving behind a path of devastation of homes, vehicles and roads that forced a halt in the daily life for thousands of families in Copiapo, about 1,200 km from capital Santiago.
Miners operating in the copper-rich country did not reported any serious damage, although blocked roads forced some to suspend works.
Chile-owned Codelco, the world’s No.1 copper producer, was forced to halt operations at its El Salvador Mine, located at 2.300 meters of altitude in the mountain halted operations for a week due to roads destruction and interruption of the water supply. The head of the company, Nelson Pizarro, said this decision would mean a drop in output estimated in 6.500 tons of refined copper.
Later, we learned the suspension would be extended, with the firm making staff to take paid vacations, as the damage was impossible to deal with in only a few days, sources said off the record.
Another loser was Caserones mine, located 160 kilometers South of Copiapo, close to the border with Argentina at 4.600 meters of altitude. Lumina Copper halted operations to repair damages, including access roads, and to secure water supply. The company promised workers to be sent back home as soon as possible. However, a bunch of them was swept away by fresh mudslides, while they were waiting for help to arrive, leaving them wet and helpless until dawn.
By Wednesday, Kinross Gold Corp's mining and crushing operations at its Maricunga mine were still suspended following the floods caused by the rains — the worst in 80 years to fall in the region, one of the driest on Earth.
Almost 11,000 people have been affected and more than 4,500 remain in shelters.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the natural disaster that battered northern Chile has risen to 24, with another 83 still missing.