Copper miner Antofagasta said on Tuesday that a leak had been detected in the underground pipeline that transports concentrate from the Los Pelambres concentrator plant to the port at Los Vilos, in Chile.
The leak, which was detected a week ago, did not cause any environmental damage, the London-listed miner reported.
Mining operations and the processing plant continue to operate, but with limitations owing to road access restrictions.
The full-year impact on production will depend on the duration of the shutdown and if the standstill has created any conditions requiring further actions.
“Currently, the impact on group copper production is expected to be limited to within the current full-year guidance range, which remains unchanged at 640 000 t to 690 000 t, and subject to any revision following full access to the pipeline and repairs being completed,” said Antofagasta.
Capital expenditure in bringing the pipeline back to normal operations is not expected to be material.
Antofagasta said that it had not been able to access the site to do repairs, owing to some community members blocking access to the site. Once the pipeline has been repaired, stockpiled material will be transported to the port using the spare capacity in the pipeline resulting in some rescheduling of sales and shipments.
The miner noted that an assessment of the causes of the leak was under way and any resulting recommendations would be applied to the concentrate pipeline and the new replacement pipeline that was currently being designed and permitted, which was expected to be in operation by 2025.
The Los Pelambres mine has been in the crosshairs of public scrutiny recently. Last week, Chile's environmental regulator initiated a sanction process against the copper mine for deficiencies associated with tailings management. The Environmental Superintendent (SMA) filed one minor and two major charges for improper use and deficiencies in emergency tailings pools, as well as deficiencies in the communication protocol for incidents and contingencies.
The SMA started the cause owing to citizen complaints and made recommendations for managing particulate matter emitted by miners.