Codelco shuts Chuquicamata smelter and refinery for at least two weeks amid Covid-19 crisis

The world’s biggest copper miner Codelco announced on Thursday it would halt operations at its biggest smelter and refinery in Chuquicamata division in a measure to prevent further spread of Covid-19.

The closure of the Chuquicamata copper smelter could last up to two weeks and more. The exact duration of the closure will depend on the number of Covid-19 cases detected, with tests being carried out on staff.

Meanwhile, the refinery continues to operate at one third of capacity to process existing concentrate, a Codelco spokesman said, adding that the workforce will be reduced for sanitary measures.

The world’s biggest copper miner said the measure was “transitory” in nature and aimed at “reducing exposure, reinforcing preventive efforts and controls for the safety and health of people” working in the identified areas of the division.

The move comes as Chile faces its toughest weeks so far of the pandemic, with 259,064 cases and almost 5,000 deaths – three of them of Codelco workers.

Chuquicamata is fifth largest copper mine in Chile and one of the largest in the world.

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