Workers at BHP’s Escondida call for mine shutdown barring stricter safety measures

Escondida workers on strike in 2017. (Screenshot from CNN Chile Video)

Unionized workers at BHP’s Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, said on Wednesday they would ask authorities to shut down the mine unless management begins to implement stricter measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The union said in a statement its members were particularly exposed to the virus given the often tight quarters at mine facilities and frequent travel from disparate parts of Chile.

“If minimum health and safety conditions aren’t met shortly…we will ask government agencies…to apply the measures necessary to suspend production,” the union said in a statement.

BHP did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Several miners in Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal and the No.2 producer of lithium, began to implement safety measures last week as the coronavirus hit the South American nation.

Teck Resources said on Wednesday it was temporarily suspending construction activities at its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) copper project to ensure employee safety and limit the spread of COVID-19.

(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Chris Reese and Chizu Nomiyama)


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