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SANTIAGO, July 26 (Reuters) - Workers at Chile’s Collahuasi mine, one of the world’s largest copper deposits, called a 24-hour work stoppage on Saturday after one of their colleagues died, possibly from infection.
Morning-shift workers scheduled to head up to the mine, perched 4,440 meters above sea level in the rugged northern Andean region of Tarapaca, decided to down their tools after they heard about the death, the union told Reuters on Saturday.
“Collahuasi’s workers are having a workday of reflection, paralyzing production areas for health and safety,” the mine’s union said on its Twitter page.
Robinson Cruz Albornoz, who worked at the mine for 17 years, died on Friday in his hometown of Calama in northern Chile after suffering from symptoms that point to a possible meningococcal meningitis infection, regional health authorities said, according to Collahuasi.
The infectious disease, which can cause severe brain damage, is fatal in half of cases if left untreated, according to the World Health Organization.
Collahuasi, a partnership between Glencore Plc and Anglo American Plc, said it was preventively treating workers at the mine to avoid possible contagion, but underscored that no other workers had shown symptoms of the infection so far.
It will take a few days for regional health authorities to determine the worker’s exact cause of death.
The Chilean mine produced 444,509 tonnes of refined copper in 2013, up from 282,100 tonnes in 2012, when it was recovering from a string of problems related to labor, accidents and weather. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, additional reporting by Anthony Esposito; writing by Anthony Esposito, editing by John Stonestreet and G Crosse)