June 16, 2020 / 2:16 PM / 20 days ago

Chile says copper miners complying with sanitary measures amid outbreak

SANTIAGO, June 16 (Reuters) - A Chilean regulator on Tuesday dismissed the concerns voiced by union workers that mining companies were failing to enforce sanitary measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, calling mine adherence to the restrictions “adequate.”

Unions had urged the government to re-assess the operating plans of the country´s sprawling mines on Sunday, citing an “alarming” increase in infections among workers.

But Chile´s Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) told Reuters in an emailed statement it had carried out 4,299 inspections at various mining sites throughout the world´s top copper producer since the outbreak began in mid-March.

“We have verified on the ground an adequate implementation by the industry and its workers of ... the respective protocols,” the agency said in the statement.

Chile, unlike neighboring Peru, has yet to require mines to limit operations, even as the number of cases nationwide has soared. South America has in recent weeks become the epicenter of the global outbreak, with Peru, Chile and Brazil especially hard hit.

Chile has seen an explosive increase in infections since May, averaging more than 5,000 new cases daily. The country has now logged 180,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,300 deaths due to Covid-19.

Most mining companies in the country´s vast northern desert have nonetheless maintained operational continuity. Chile said in May its copper industry ranked among the least affected globally by the pandemic, anticipating just a 1% reduction in output.

International giants like the state-owned Codelco, BHP , Anglo American, Glencore, Antofagasta and Freeport McMoRan operate in Chile.

None of the companies, nor the associations of the sector, have issued declarations on the indications of the unions. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood’; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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