Bolivia’s largest mine suspends operations as virus controls tighten

San Cristobal mine is ranked among the world’s biggest producers of zinc, lead and silver. (Image courtesy of Minera San Cristobal)

Bolivia’s San Cristóbal mine, a huge desposit of zinc, lead and silver, has suspended operations after the country imposed tough rules to halt the spread of coronavirus, its operator Minera San Cristóbal said in a statement on Friday.

The company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japana’s Sumitomo Corporation, said it would impose a “temporary suspension of the production and export of concentrated zinc, lead and silver minerals” following the government measures.

Bolivia’s interim government said earlier this week it would extend an obligatory quarantine period until mid-April, close the country’s border and tighten further the movement of people in light of the global pandemic.

Minera San Cristóbal added in a statement posted on Twitter that the move came “in the face of the spread of the covid-19 virus, and as a precaution for the health and life of workers.”

The open-pit mine is located in Bolivia’s Potosí department near the border with Chile, and is the source of about half of the landlocked country’s mining exports.

A skeleton crew of workers was completing the last exports Friday and carrying out maintenance work, the operator said.

(By Daniel Ramos, Adam Jourdan and Tom Brown)

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