Miners resume operations in Peru, Bolivia

The Antamina mine in Peru is one of the largest copper/zinc operations in the world. (Image courtesy of Teck Resources).

Through supreme decree N° 080-2020-PCM, the Peruvian government authorized mining operators to resume activities as of May 2, 2020. 

According to the decree, miners are allowed to exploit, refine, store and transport minerals and metals, as well as go on with construction projects and mine closures. 

Industrial activities were halted in the South American country in mid-March due to the covid-19 pandemic. The resumption of operations is going to be done gradually, with a first phase starting in May and ending in August. 

As of Sunday, Peru had over 42,500 confirmed cases of covid-19 and Bolivia had 1,470 cases

During this initial trial, companies are obligated to implement strict health and safety protocols that prevent the spread of infections. Health authorities will conduct regular inspections in plants and mine sites to monitor compliance. 

Besides the mining sector, which is responsible for 60% of all exports in the world’s No. 2 copper producer, industrial fisheries, suppliers for the agricultural sector, and the chemical, metal, forestry, paper, glass industries, among others, were allowed to restart. 

In a similar fashion, Bolivia’s Mining Minister Carlos Huallpa announced that a multi-ministerial resolution was approved allowing private, state-owned and co-op mining operations to resume activities as of May 2, 2020.

In order to get back to work, however, companies have to send a request to the ministry asking for permission and submit the biosafety protocols that they will put in place to avoid the spread of covid-19.

According to Huallpa, the government established that, at minimum, all sites must install disinfection chambers and have enough thermometers to check workers’ temperature. 

The minister also said that it is mandatory to set up mobile hospitals with triage units and test employees for underlying conditions that may put them at risk of severe complications from covid-19.

Besides being an important producer of zinc, gold and silver, Bolivia belongs -together with Chile and Argentina- to what is known as the “lithium triangle.” The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that Bolivia has 9 million tonnes of identified lithium resources buried beneath its salt flats.