Copper Mines Shut in Chile as Deluge Floods Santiago Streets

Updated on
  • Teniente underground mine halted as Cachapoal River broke bank
  • Anglo American suspended some mine work for safety reasons

Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer, and Anglo American Plc shut mines after heavy rains in central Chile over the weekend.

Operations at Codelco’s El Teniente underground mine were halted and homes and roads were inundated as the Cachapoal River broke its banks in the O’Higgins region south of Santiago. Meanwhile, London-based Anglo American suspended its Los Bronces open-pit mine in the Andes mountains above the capital for safety reasons, while continuing some processing using stockpiled ore.

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“Service restoration work to resume production is estimated to take at least three days, equivalent to 5,000 metric tons of copper production,” Codelco said in a statement late Saturday. “The company’s other operations continue to run normally.”

The closures come as copper prices, which have declined 23 percent in the past 12 months and touched a six-year low in January, were rebounding amid signs of stabilizing demand in China. Chile exported $2.4 billion in copper last month, or 46.5 percent of goods sent abroad by the South American nation, according to data from Banco Central de Chile.

In Santiago, tunnels feeding the Mapocho River overflowed into the streets, filling building parking lots and shops with muddy water, in the neighborhood of Providencia. Mayor Josefa Errazuriz told reporters that road work being done by concessionaire Costanera Norte contributed to the flooding. 

Muddying of water sources cut supply to about a million people, state television station TVN reported, with classes suspended at schools throughout the capital. About 300 people were affected by mudslides and flooding in central Chile. Seven people were missing and one person had died, newspaper El Mercurio reported on its website, citing the state emergency agency known as Onemi.

Onemi had earlier estimated about 180 millimeters (7 inches) fell in 48 hours in the Andean foothills.