Los Pelambres expansion halted for up to four months
Antofagasta announced that will suspend the $1.3 billion expansion project at the Los Pelambres operation for about four months as the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to carry on with work. The decision includes suspending contracts with most of the companies building the INCO project of Minera Los Pelambres.
“This decision makes it possible to strengthen general hygiene and social isolation measures, thus protecting the health of both workers and communities,” the company said in a statement.
The mine, which is Antofagasta’s flagship mine, had production of 357.8 kt (394,000 st) in 2018. It accounts for nearly half of its total copper output.
The suspension, which in principle will have a maximum duration of up to 120 days, should in most cases not lead to the termination of the contracts. "We want to maintain a contractual relationship with most of the contractor companies with which we are working today, but we must accept that, given the current conditions, many cannot do the work for which they are contracted," said Francisco Walther, Vice President of Projects at Antofagasta Minerals.
"It is a temporary suspension for the duration of this emergency, as we hope to resume work as soon as possible, hopefully well before the end of the initially defined timeframe," Walther said.
Antofagasta said it each contract will be reviewed individually and that it is seeking to maintain, whenever possible, each workers’ minimum monthly income equal to Ch$500,000 and avoiding the termination of their employment.
"We must all try to reduce the cost of this crisis on the INCO project’s contractor workers as much as possible. Therefore, we are contributing so that, whenever possible, workers from the INCO project are not left without an income in these difficult times,” said Walther.
At los Pelambres the workforce reductions of its regular operations that have already been implemented are being maintained, with the aim of ensuring the necessary hygienic conditions to protect the health of those who work on site and in the communities. In each case, the company will agree the contractual conditions with each of the contract companies involved.”