Exclusive: Peru mines set to restart; to hit 80% production in a month - industry official

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian miners are set to restart operations in coming days and ramp up to around 80% of normal production levels within a month, a senior official at the country’s mining industry group told Reuters, as the world’s No. 2 copper producing country looks to rebound from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pablo de la Flor, executive director of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy (SNMPE), said around 20 mining companies were ready to resume operations that were scaled back sharply during a nationwide lockdown since mid-March.

He said miners were currently operating at between 35% and 40% of capacity due to the impact of the virus.

“We are talking about 39 operations by 22 large mining companies,” De la Flor told Reuters by phone later on Wednesday.

“These represent approximately 95% of (local) copper production, 65% of silver production, 62% of zinc production and 26% of gold production,” he added.

Peru’s mining companies, which make up 60% of the country’s exports, have been carrying out limited operations on essential or maintenance areas, according to government restrictions to avoid contagion of coronavirus.

Peru’s government has said it wants to gradually restart key activities in May, to reduce the impact on the economy. The county has registered 54,817 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, one of the highest in the region.


De la Flor said the energy ministry had approved a “sanitary protocol” that each firm in the sector will have to design and present for official approval, before resuming the exploitation, storage and transport of minerals.

“I would estimate that in the next 24 hours a good portion of companies will start presenting their plans,” he added, adding they should then begin operating this week or next.

Major global miners including Aluminum Corp of China 601600.SS, MMG Ltd 1208.HK, Freeport-McMoRan FCX.N, Newmont Corp NEM.N, Barrick Gold ABX.TO and Southern Copper SCCO.N operate in Peru among others.

The pandemic has directly hit some firms including Peruvian copper miner Antamina, controlled by BHP and Glencore GLEN.L, which saw hundreds of workers test positive for COVID-19.

De la Flor said the almost paralysis of mining production and the fall in metal prices globally have had a “worrying” impact on local companies in the sector.

“The combination of these factors is leading us to project a drop in the value of mining exports for the year of between 15% to 20%,” he said.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by David Gregorio