31 Mar Mining initiatives to tackle the pandemic
Given the rapid advance in the rate of infections by COVID-19, mining companies have taken measures to try to contain the virus, and continue operating relatively normally. From reducing the staff to making donations of medical supplies in the areas where they operate, besides temporarily halting some projects, among others.
BHP and the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University announced an alliance to join forces to face the pandemic, which translates into increasing the virus detection capacity and strengthening the Family Health Centers of the South East Area of the Región Metropolitana, and the regions of Antofagasta and Tarapacá. All the measures add up to a total of USD 4 millions, those that include an early detection program, which includes 150,000 rapid tests.
In addition to the above, the laboratory’s capacity will be expanded, besides including the purchase of analysis equipment to increase the speed of sample processing. Community surveillance of positive cases and their contacts will also be carried out, based on Primary Care Centers and telemedicine, and a 24/7 telephone center will be set up to identify possible cases.
Apart from that, BHP announced measures to help communities in the surroundings of the company, such as the delivery of essential supplies, sanitation of public areas, conditioning of community spaces intended for isolation against potential cases, and support for the State network to increase medical rounds, supplies and vaccination of high-risk people.
The Northern District of Codelco, made up of Chuquicamata, Radomiro Tomic, Ministro Hales and Gabriela Mistral, will reduce their workforce by 30% with the implementation of their preventive measures for the contagion of COVID-19. This will significantly reduce the density of people in the operations.
However, one of the measures taken by the state-owned company that generated the most impact was that of the temporary suspension of some of its projects, which would make it possible to strengthen the health security of the divisions and reduce staffing. These projects are the remaining works of the Chuquicamata Underground Mine Project, the early works of Rajo Inca and the assembly works of Traspaso Andina.
And for the general population, Codelco will provide the Carlos Cisternas Hospital in Calama with a “CFX96 ™ detection system using real-time PCR”.
Like other companies, Antofagasta Minerals announced the temporary reduction of on-site workers, reducing by 30% the number of own workers and contractors in its operations, and by more than 75% the staff working in the construction of the Complementary Infrastructure Project (INCO) of Minera Los Pelambres, which could imply a delay in the works.
These preventive measures are added to other actions that Antofagasta Minerals has been promoting since last February, such as the reinforcement of hygiene and disinfection work, the prohibition of attending work with cold or flu symptoms, preventive health controls, the cancellation of trips abroad and the promotion of teleworking in all possible cases.
Likewise, the mining group announced the delivery of equipment that enables rapid detection of coronavirus in the Antofagasta region, reducing detection time from 3 to 4 days to about 4 hours. Added to this is the provision of two sports complexes that Antofagasta Minerals has in Antofagasta, to eventually be used as sanitary facilities.
With almost 5,000 workers between its own and contractors, Minera Collahuasi has decided to promote a progressive decrease in its staff to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which will reach 40% in operations. This includes its staff, contractors and project workers.
Also, the company donated a PCR kit to identify the coronavirus to the Iquique Health Service (SSI), which allows the processing of up to 190 simultaneous samples, reducing the time for diagnosis, sample development and sample processing.