BHP confirms first two cases of coronavirus at Escondida mine

Escondida copper mine. (Image courtesy of BHP)

Global miner BHP confirmed on Thursday two cases of coronavirus at its Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world’s largest.

The company said in a statement that one in-house worker and one contractor had shown symptoms and tested positive. Several others who came in contact with them were placed in preventative quarantine, the company said.

In March, unionized workers at Escondida said they would ask authorities to shut down the mine unless management stricter measures are implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.

In 2019, Escondida produced 1,135 kt of copper, a 6% decrease over the previous year as a consequence of a sharp decline in copper grades.

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, has seen relatively few cases of coronavirus at its immense copper mines to date. Many miners moved early to reduce staffs and implement measures, such as social distancing and health checks, to stem the spread of the virus.

Several companies have reduced staff but most have maintained operational continuity and output.

Chile has confirmed 5,972 cases of coronavirus.

(By Dave Sherwood; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

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