The Portuguese project was previously on track for completion of construction, commissioning and a phased start-up beginning in the June quarter. The company, which was aiming to wrap the project in 2020, did not indicate when work could begin again.
Lundin said it had been actively monitoring COVID-19 since early January, and had already put plans for illness management and response into place at each of its operations. Included in those measures: travel restrictions, surveillance and monitoring, and a response plan.
Specifically, to reduce the risk of exposure and outbreak, it outlined health screenings of contractors, visitors and employees, limiting visitors to only those considered business critical. It will also undertake constant assessments of the situation as it evolves.
"Employees or contractors who have had incidental contact or exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, as well as those who have travelled internationally, have been instructed to stay at home for 14 days regardless of whether they are showing symptoms," Lundin officials said.
Despite its implemented plans, the miner confirmed that it was notified March 14 that a single employee of its Candelaria operation in Chile had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The unnamed individual, who had vacationed abroad, returned to the Atacama region but has not been to work nor the mine site since returning to Chile.
To date, the worker is the only one on Lundin's payroll to have contracted COVID-19.
President and CEO Marie Inkster spoke both to the decision to suspend the ZEP work, as well as its overall efforts for employee health.
"As the workforce for the project includes many contract employees who travel from other regions of Portugal and internationally, the risk is that the virus could be brought to the Alentejo region by people travelling to come to work on our project," she said.
"The health and safety of our local communities, employees and contractors is of utmost importance, so we have taken this step to reduce the risks to them and to lower the risk of significant disruption to the business."
The company said it would release more details later about any impacts the suspension would have on the timeliness and budget of the project. However, she pointed out that Lundin was in a "strong financial position" with high-quality operations.
"We are well positioned to maintain stability and will continue to work proactively to protect the health of our company, our local stakeholders and our communities as we navigate through this time of uncertainty," she said.
"There has been no material impact to production or shipment of concentrate from any of the company's operations to date as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, there has been no significant disruption to the supply chain of the company's operations."