Worldwide mining disruptions

Chuquicamata mine. File image.

(This story was updated March 26)

On a global scale, work is grinding to a halt and operations at mines are being temporarily suspended as majors and minors move to enact measures to protect against the spread of covid-19.

With governments from Africa to Latin America issuing lockdown orders, disruptions to operations and supply chains are affecting the outlook for industrial and precious metals. Most of the majors have now announced halts at gold-copper operations.

  • On March 26, Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. became the latest major diversified miner to temporarily suspend operations at some of its mines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The measure affects the company’s San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine in Bolivia and Ambatovy nickel mine in Madagascar, as curfews have been imposed in those countries.
  • On March 26, Trevali Mining (TSX:TV) temporarily stopped production at its Caribou zinc-lead-silver mine in Canada’s New Brunswick province as challenges presented by the spread of covid-19 have added to woes posed by weak conditions in the zinc market.
  • Glencore on Thursday March 26 halted a number of smaller mines due to government restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus but added its larger operations were not materially impacted.
  • After announcing a temporary suspension of operations until at least March 31 at its 49%-owned San José mine in Argentina late last week, on March 26, McEwen Mining reported it will also be suspending production at its Black Fox mine in Ontario and Gold Bar in Nevada.
  • On Wednesday, March 25 Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner, said it will temporarily suspend construction on some projects. Codelco said the 15-day suspension applied to remaining work being carried out to make Chuquicamata an underground mine, and projects at an early stage at Rajo Inca and Traspaso Andina.
  • Sibanye-Stillwater announced on Wednesday that it has begun implementing measures to place its South African gold and PGM operations under temporary care and maintenance, in accordance with the nation-wide lockdown for 21 days, effective midnight on Thursday.
  • Miners in Ecuador are now temporarily halting all activity in the country, following the government’s call to stay home.
  • In response to the country’s lockdown effort to slow the spread of covid-19, AngloGold Ashanti announced Tuesday it will temporarily suspend production from its South Africa operations for three weeks as of midnight on March 26.
  • OceanaGold announced March 24 that the Waihi gold operation in the North Island of New Zealand will go on temporary care and maintenance for four weeks in response to measures put in place by the New Zealand government.
  • On Tuesday, Yamana Gold (TSX:YRI, NYSE:AUY) announced that it will scale back operations at its Canadian Malartic mine, Canada’s largest gold mine.
  • Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals in South Africa will halt production by midnight Thursday. The company will put furnaces on care and maintenance. Rio Tinto will also slow activities at aluminum assets in Canada.
  • Vale’s Voisey’s Bay mine in Canada will be on care and maintenance for four weeks, copper-concentrate production at Long Harbour will be reduced proportionally to the period of the stoppage.
  • Egypt-focused gold miner Centamin said on Wednesday that operations at its Sukari gold mine remained unaffected by covid-19, adding it had stockpiled enough critical supplies to last until the end of June.

Last week, producers across South America, where the bulk of the world’s copper is produced, halted or cut back operations and slowed construction.

  • Hong Kong-listed MMG said last Thursday that operations at its Las Bambas mine, with expected production in the 360kt range for this year had been reduced temporarily after Peru declared a state of emergency on March 16.  
  • Anglo American said it will slow the building of its $5 billion Quellaveco project in Peru and on Thursday the miner said it is scaling down operations at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile. The company will also reschedule work at mines in countries such as Chile.
  • Teck Resources said on Wednesday it is temporarily suspending construction activities at its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) copper project in Chile. The project is expected to have an initial mine life of 28 years, producing 316,000 tonnes of copper equivalent annually.
  • The world’s no 2 copper producer, Chile’s state-owned Codelco, said on Wednesday it planned to reduce its operations but sales, shipments of copper are not yet hit by coronavirus.
  • BHP said on March 19 that so far the pandemic has not affected its material operations, a day after Reuters reports unionized workers at the Escondida mine in Chile operated by BHP requested a halt to operations unless management begins to implement stricter health and safety measures. Escondida is the largest copper mine in the world by a wide measure and was projected to produce some 1.2 million tonnes this year.
  • Freeport-McMoRan said March 17 that it is suspending operations at its 350kt per year Cerro Verde mine in Peru for at least 15 days.
  • Antofagasta PLC said on Friday it would put parts of its Los Pelambres expansion project on care and maintenance as the Chilean miner reduced the number of staff to reduce risk of coronavirus infection. Los Pelambres had production of 357,800 tonnes in 2018.
  • Glencore’s Mopani copper mines unit in Zambia said on Friday it would review all parts of its business due to the increasing economic uncertainty.

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