Chile copper mine workers seek dialogue as coronavirus outbreak explodes

18th June 2020 By: Reuters

SANTIAGO – Unionised copper mine workers in Chile asked on Wednesday to be included in a dialogue between companies and the government to address the exploding coronavirus crisis in the world´s top producer of the red metal.

The Chilean Mines Federation - which groups the workers at Chile's principal copper deposits - has softened its tone since demanding on Sunday that authorities strengthen enforcement of safety rules following an "alarming" increase in coronavirus cases among miners.

"We want to request, as the largest mining organisation in Chile, a three-way dialogue ... to prevent even more mine workers from becoming infected," the group said in a statement.

The federation also demanded that health and mining officials be more transparent in disclosing information about sanitary inspections at mines.

Chile´s sprawling copper and lithium mines have largely maintained operational continuity even as cases of Covid-19 have soared throughout the country in recent weeks. Authorities said in May the country´s copper industry ranked among the least affected globally by the pandemic, anticipating just a 1% reduction in output.

Chile´s Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) told Reuters earlier this week it had carried out thousands of inspections at various mining sites and dismissed allegations that companies were failing to comply.

An umbrella group for unionized workers at State-run Codelco said in a separate statement it would soon seek a meeting with Health Minister Enrique Paris to express its own concerns.

South America has in recent weeks become the epicenter of the global outbreak. Chile has reported more than 220 000 cases and 3 600 deaths from the disease, with new infections averaging 5 000 a day.

Chile is home to international mining giants BHP Group, Anglo American, Glencore, Antofagasta, Freeport McMoRan and State-run Codelco.

None of the companies have commented on the recent union statements.