Several foreign mining companies have had to reverse the opening process and suspend operations in response to a rise in Covid-19 infections. June saw Trevali Mining, the Canadian company owning the Santander zinc and lead mine, halting operations after 19 workers tested positive. The figure now is 82 out of a workforce of 298 at the mine. This week, Hochschild, registered in London, halted operations at Inmaculata, a gold and silver mine, following positive testing of a number of workers. Fortuna mines suspended operations at Caylloma, though it is not clear if the death of a worker was in fact Covid-related.
The minister of energy and mines, Susana Vilca, reported that mineworkers arriving for their shift are finding a number of infected comrades. She said. “that means there are fewer workers and we have less production capacity. That means we can’t reach the target.” Nevertheless, she expected mines to be back at almost pre-pandemic levels by the end of July.
Companies must be viewing with apprehension the way cases have multiplied in the Chilean mining sector. Codelco, the Chilean state copper company, has over 2,600 infected workers, and five of the nine deaths in the sector have occurred there. Mining unions are protesting the lack of safety measures, and are considering taking action in the courts.