Codelco to ratchet up precautionary measures as covid-19 cases rise

Sanitation tunnel at El Teniente mine. (Image courtesy of Codelco)

Chile’s state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on Thursday it would once again ratchet up precautionary measures against the coronavirus at its mines amid a recent uptick in infections in the South American nation.

The measures, which include a reduction in personnel, come several months after the miner had resumed normal operations following the peak of contagion in May and June.

Codelco, like many Chilean miners, emerged largely unscathed from the first wave of covid-19, maintaining output throughout the pandemic.

“The number of infections remains low among our own and collaborating personnel,” the company said, adding it had nonetheless chosen to boost sanitary precautions at its mines on a case-by-case basis.

Besides staffing reductions, the company said it would re-implement telecommuting, focus on jobs handled by its own staff and suspend some visits from contractors and suppliers to its operations.

The company said it would also negotiate with unions returning to a seven-day on, seven-day off schedule that was used to good effect in 2020.

Codelco told Reuters in a statement later on Thursday that the measures would “have no impact on production,” and said that “for now, we will not stop projects.”

Chile has reported more than 656,000 cases of coronavirus and 17,000 deaths from the disease. A recent spike in cases in the northern mining region of Antofagasta has prompted new restrictions and lockdowns.

(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler)

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