Chilean state copper miner Codelco confirms fifth case of coronavirus among workers

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on Wednesday that a fifth worker has been confirmed as having contracted coronavirus, at its Ministro Hales mine.

The diagnosis of the contract worker was confirmed in the central coastal city of La Serena on his final rest day before starting a new shift at the mine.

“The affected person is in his place of residence, and possible contacts were identified according to the protocols set by the health authority,” Codelco said in a statement.

So far, despite complaints from unions about a lack of social distancing on workers’ buses and in residences, the copper miner has not reported any significant outbreaks among its workers.

It has stalled some projects to update its ageing mines and reduced staffing at some of its facilities a bid to slow the advance of coronavirus, of which there have so far been 3,031 confirmed cases in the South American country.

Last week, the miner reported its first case as befalling a project contractor at its Andina mine, to which was added a second case of a colleague who shared a bus with him, and a third in at the El Teniente mine smelter who was working from home in the capital Santiago.

A fourth case was recorded of a worker at Codelco´s smaller Salvador division, who was in quarantine after returning from Europe.

The company has vowed to maintain “operational continuity” during the health crisis but admitted that the fall in the price of copper will impact on its ability to generate earnings and puts some of its projects at risk.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Marguerita Choy