Chile’s president calls for health and safety reforms after two deaths and sinkhole

August 11, 2022

A pair of fatal accidents at a mining construction project in Chile in addition to a massive sinkhole near a copper mine has prompted Chile President Gabriel Boric to call for a closer look at health and safety regulations in the nation’s mining industry.

Reuters reported that Chile President Gabriel Boric said he wants to ratify an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on health and safety in mines. The rules were issued in 1995 and first adopted by Botswana, Finland, Spain and Sweden. Brazil adopted the rules, known as convention 176, in 2006 and Peru in 2008.

Trade associations and legislators have requested government support for convention 176, which includes guarantees for workers, while requiring the state to adopt certain legislative standards.

“Although accident rates have decreased in the last 10 years, we still have a lot to do,” Boric said during a speech commemorating Chile’s Miner Day.

There were 20 accidental deaths in Chile’s mining industry in 2021 including the two deaths at a Codelco site in July.

On July 30, a giant sinkhole developed near a copper mine jointly owned by Lundin Mining and Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. The sinkhole has grown to 50 m (160-ft) across and 200 m (656 ft) deep.

The National Service of Geology and Mining said it is investigating the sink hole near the Alcaparrosa mine about 665 km (413 miles) north of Santiago.

Boric also mentioned the recent sinkhole that occurred near a copper mine in northern Chile that is still being investigated.

“What if that sinkhole happened in a town? What if it happened in a work site?” Boric said. “What would we be lamenting today? It could perfectly have happened.”

Chile’s mining regulator Sernageomin found “deficiencies” in the cases of the two deaths at the Codelco site, noting that the deaths could have been prevented, bringing attention to compliance with industry safety standards in Chile, the world’s No.1 copper producer.

Ratifying the convention would mean stricter safety measures, more government oversight and allow workers to file lawsuits to the ILO.

Photo credit: Reuters 



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