Codelco CEO warns that catastrophic results would come from more restrictions
Further COVID-19 related restrictions placed on Chile’s copper mining sector would be “catastrophic” for the country, according to Codelco’s Chief Executive Officer Octavio Araneda.
Codelco, the state run company that turns over all its profits to government coffers, is the world’s top copper producer. Reuters reported that Araneda made the waring in an interview with a local newspaper in Chile.
Araneda said Codelco had acted quickly and proactively to contain the virus, despite increasing criticism from unions and politicians in recent weeks.
“Once the pandemic is past, every peso we generate will help to lift our country tomorrow,” Araneda said in the interview.
The mining giant said in April and May it had held output and shipments of copper steady despite the growing crisis. However, South America has become a hot spot for the spread of the virus which has led to calls for further restrictions.
Union groups say at least 2,300 of Codelco´s workers have been infected with COVID-19. Araneda downplayed the figures, saying they were on par with the rest of the industry.
“Let´s look at this in context: We have almost 70,000 staff, between our own workers and contractors, that’s why the numbers are high,” he said.
Araneda touted safety measures the company has taken, including longer shift rotations at its flagship El Teniente mine and temporarily shutting down its Chuquicamata smelter and refinery. He said the company was working with as much as a 50 percent reduction in staff.
The move to shut down the Chuquicamata smelter would cost the miner $7 million a month, Araneda said, and force it to ship copper concentrate instead of cathode.
That would boost total costs in the division by about 5 percent, he said in the interview.