SANTIAGO, April 29 (Reuters) - Chile´s mining minister said on Wednesday the South American nation´s sprawling copper industry so far ranks among the least affected globally by the COVID-19 pandemic, citing official figures that point to a reduction in output of just 1%.
Mining minister Baldo Prokurica, in an interview with Emol TV, credited both public and private measures aimed at protecting workers with the industry´s resilience even as the virus has ravaged other parts of Chile´s economy.
“One realizes that Chile has been one of the countries that will be least hit by this pandemic,” Prokurica told the web news broadcast.
Prokurica said official statistics from Chile state copper agency Cochilco estimate a total reduction in output of about 63,300 tonnes, or approximately 1% of the country´s annual production.
Chile produced 5.70 million tonnes of copper in 2019.
“There are countries that are going to reduce their production by up to 25% or 30%,” Prokurica said, adding he hoped the fall in output elsewhere might boost the ailing copper price.
The copper price touched a four-year low in March but bounced back this week as China begins to revive and global output lags, with many countries still facing lockdown measures.
Prokurica, a former senator from the northern mining province of Antofagasta, warned on the television broadcast that much remained unknown and that the final impact of the virus on Chile´s output would depend on “how the pandemic evolves.”
Many of Chile´s mines are perched at high altitude near the top of the Andes Mountains. As the Southern Hemisphere winter sets in, some health officials have warned of a flare-up in coronavirus cases.
Chile, the world´s top copper producer, is home to dozens of copper mines, including BHP, Anglo American, Glencore, Freeport and Antofagasta.
State miner Codelco, the world´s largest, said in April its Chile production and sales continued in line with targets even as restrictions have increased around the coronavirus outbreak. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)