Chile’s mining sector operating normally despite riots

Protest in Santiago on October 19, 2019. (Image by Jorge Morales Piderit, Wikimedia Commons).

Chile’s Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica said on Sunday that mines across the country, both state-owned and privately-owned, are operating normally despite the riots that have been taking place in Santiago and that have spread to other cities this past week.

In a media statement sent to Reuters, Prokurica said that since most mining operations are located in the northern part of the country and far away from major towns, there have been no disruptions connected to the rallies.

 Chile is the world’s top producer of copper, with output expected to exceed 6 million tonnes for the first time this year and continue to rise by about 30% over the next 10 years

According to the minister, a few companies have had to make some minor changes to their schedules as some employees are not able to get to work because of disruptions in the transit system.

In a similar tone, the president of the National Society of Mining, Diego Hernández, did not report any problems at mining sites when talking to local media about the protests.

In a statement given to La Tercera newspaper, Hernández said that his organization hopes that all of those involved in the social unrest are able to find spaces for dialogue and reflection so that agreements can be reached to bring back the country to a state of normalcy where “stability and progress are guaranteed.” 

At least three people have been killed and dozens have been injured in a series of rallies that, for two nights in a row, have become violent with clashes between protesters and security forces.

The protests began last Monday when, alleging high fuel prices and the devaluation of the peso, the government announced a 4% increase in subway fares. After declaring a state of emergency due to the civil unrest caused by the measure -which was also announced a few weeks after a 10% hike in electricity bills was put in place- President Sebastián Piñera suspended the fare hike on Saturday. 

However, the unrest continues with protests spreading to other major cities such as Antofagasta, Talca, Concepción and Valparaíso. Despite the curfews that are contemplated in the declaration of state of emergency, people are marching on the streets until late at night and setting up barricades in demand for income equality.

Many are being arrested, with 1,462 people charged on Sunday in connection with the protests. Authorities are going after those looting, setting up fires and damaging public property. 

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