June 20, 2020 / 10:57 PM / 15 days ago

Chile's Codelco says to suspend northern construction projects due to pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Codelco's logo is seen at the entrance of its Ventanas copper smelter in Ventanas, Chile October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s state-controlled Codelco copper miner said on Saturday it will suspend construction projects in the northern part of the country and try to maintain production at its Chuquicamata mine while staffing the operation with local personnel.

The company issued a statement saying its was taking the measures to guard against the spread of the coronavirus after the government reported an increase in virus-related deaths earlier on Saturday.

Amid an effort to reorganize its much-criticized reporting of virus-related deaths, the government increased its estimated number of fatal cases to more than 7,000 from a previously confirmed 4,265.

The Codelco announcement came hours after the second coronavirus-related death of a Codelco worker was confirmed.

The company said its Chuquicamata mine, where the first coronavirus death occurred early this month, will only operate with personnel from the neighboring town of Calama to slow the spread of the pandemic.

“From now on staffing will come only from Calama,” the statement said, adding that “efforts will be made to maintain production levels at the mine.”

Construction work aimed at completing the Chuquicamata Subterranea project in northern Chile will be suspended as the company tightens its anti-virus measures, the statement said.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler

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