COVID-19 lockdown affects miners in Peru

An increasingly severe lockdown on travel and other movements in response to the COVID-19 virus is impacting mining projects in Peru, a centre for copper, gold, silver and base metals production

Quellaveco in Moquegua, Peru

Quellaveco in Moquegua, Peru

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President Martin Vizcarra has declared a national state of emergency including a 15-day national quarantine issued on March 15, in addition to stopping international flights to Europe and closing land borders. The government is also considering the implementation of a curfew to curb the spread of the virus.

"[A curfew] would imply strengthening or tightening restrictions on access, meeting or transit. People cannot leave at a predetermined time, which is at night," said interior minister Carlos Moran, reported local media.

In response, Anglo American announced it would temporarily withdraw the majority of employees and contractors from its US$5.3 billion Quellaveco copper mine development project in Moquegua, reducing the pace of its development. Work will only continue in critical areas of the project.

Quellaveco is expected to produce 300,000 tonnes per year of copper from 2022.

"The safety and health of everyone must come first, ever more so at times such as these. We are in the process of safely demobilising most of the 10,000 strong construction workforce at our Quellaveco copper project, in support of the government of Peru's measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Our development of this world-class project has progressed ahead of schedule and within our budget and we would expect to be able to accommodate this slowdown within our market guidance on both timing and costs at this stage," said Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani in a statement.

Newmont said the virus-related government restrictions would see it ramp-down mining operations at the Yanacocha gold mine although production from leach pads and managing critical safety and environmental activities would continue.

"The health and safety of our workforce and host communities takes precedence above all else. While we have no confirmed Covid-19 cases among Newmont's workforce or any major disruptions to production at our other sites at this time, we are proactively taking steps to protect our people and the continuity of our business during this global pandemic," said president and CEO Tom Palmer.

The Cerro Verde copper mine in Arequipa has also stopped production, as has precious and base metals producer Buenaventura, and Hochschild Mining. On the exploration front, Regulus Resources has suspended exploration.

COVID-19 has also prompted the suspension of the prior consultation process related to the Tintaya expansion of Glencore's Antapaccay copper mine in Cusco. The Mining and Energy Ministry was about to undertake 11 information workshops with indigenous communities in the project area.

Peru's biennial International Gold, Silver and Copper Symposium organised by the SNMPE mining, oil and energy association planned for late May, has also been suspended. The organising committee will decide in the comping weeks a new date for the event.

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