MMG, the Chinese company owning Las Bambas and itself owned by the Chinese state company Minmetals, announced last week that it was declaring force majeure on some of its contracts to deliver copper. The announcement coincided with Vizcarra’s announcement that the lockdown was to be extended to 26 April.

The initial story was broken by Reuters on Tuesday 7 April, and presented as a reaction to the protesters’ continuing blockage of the road the company uses to get its copper to the port. The community members blocking the road have refused to take part in negotiations aimed at ending the blockade while their leader is still in jail. When the expected extension of the lockdown was announced subsequently, however, the Reuters story changed: three smelters in China and a representative of Minmetals unwilling to be named were all reported to be attributing the decision to the impact of the lockdown.

Generally, however, most mining companies have implemented partial shutdowns with safety measures in place, but with varying impacts on output. Cerro Verde in Arequipa has been negotiating health protocols to allow limited production having had the first case of the virus on its concession. Constancia, owned by Hudbay Metals, has implemented a shutdown but is maintaining a small workforce “with the overarching goal of facilitating a quick and efficient ramp up back to normal levels” according to the company. Interestingly, the company also reports that it expects the consulta previa processes under way to be deferred. Antamina apparently is continuing operations but with “less than half” the normal workforce. It too has reported cases of Covid-19 among its employees.

Most experts seem to think that as a part of a gradual re-opening of production, the mining sector is likely to be a priority owing to its importance to the economy and in the hope that its relatively formal workforce can be tracked and tested. This suggests that the point we cited two weeks ago from José De Echave is not being taken seriously; namely that the movement of urban formal workers to remote mines is a potential source of infection and far from easy to monitor and control