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Chile’s Codelco to restart projects suspended because of coronavirus

(Adds details on re-opening plans, safety measures)

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Chile’s state-run miner Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on Thursday it would restart operations and projects it had suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, beginning next week.

The miner had been forced to delay several mine expansion projects as cases of the virus spread through its operations, though it has largely maintained output during the pandemic.

The company said in a statement workers would soon return to the new underground portion of its sprawling Chuquicamata mine, and that the operation’s smelter and refinery, shut down amid the worst of the outbreak, would soon reboot.

The company had also delayed work on a new level at its century-old El Teniente mine, and said that project would restart shortly.

The coronavirus outbreak caught Codelco in the midst of a 10-year, $40 billion initiative to upgrade its aging mines, which have suffered in recent years from falling ore grades.

The state-run miner, which has faced heavy scrutiny by its unions of its handling of the pandemic, included a long list of safety measures it planned to implement to stave off further outbreaks at its operations.

Among them, it said it would not use a regional airport near Chuquicamata and that it would test all workers in their city of origin prior to their shifts.

Chile has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus, registering more than 360,000 confirmed cases and nearly 10,000 deaths. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O’Brien)


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