May 7, 2020 / 5:55 PM / 25 days ago

Chile's top miners boost production in March: state copper agency

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s top copper mines ramped up production in March even as the coronavirus outbreak took hold, according to data released on Thursday by state copper agency Cochilco, boosted by a sharp spike in output from state miner Codelco.

Production at Codelco - the world’s largest copper mining company - rose 14.8% year over year in March to 147,600 tonnes. Codelco’s output jumped 4.2% to 386,600 tons in the first quarter, Cochilco said.

BHP’s Escondida, the world´s largest copper mine, saw production in March climb 0.9% to 101,800 tons, the agency said.

The massive Collahuasi copper mine in northern Chile, a joint venture between Anglo American Plc and Glencore, also saw its March production jump 6.8% over 2019 to 50,400.

Chile´s copper industry has maintained operations even as the coronavirus has ravaged the country´s economy and shut down many other non-essential businesses.

The plummeting global copper price, however, has slashed the value of that output, pressuring some small and medium-size miners.

Chile mining minister Baldo Prokurica said last week the government estimates a total reduction in output of only 63,300 tonnes, or approximately 1% of the country´s annual production.

Prokurica credited both public and private measures aimed at protecting workers with the industry´s resilience even as the virus has hit other parts of Chile´s economy.

Codelco told Reuters in a statement on Thursday that it was maintaining its production and shipments according to its 2020 plan despite disruption wrought by the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has been possible to meet the budgeted goals for 2020 in terms of production and, in parallel, it has been possible to meet dispatches according to plan,” it said.

The company declined to give an updated figure to the five cases of coronavirus it said it had confirmed among its workers at its Ministro Hales mine at the start of April. It said that the appropriate health authorities had been notified of all confirmed cases and quarantines had been observed.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood, writing by Dave Sherwood and Aislinn Laing, editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker

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