Chilean copper giant Codelco records 3,215 cases of COVID-19; nine fatalities

FILE PHOTO: The Codelco El Teniente copper mine, the world's largest underground copper mine is shown near Machali, Chile

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile's state-owned Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, has registered a total 3,215 COVID-19 infections and nine deaths due to the pandemic, the chairman of the firm said on Monday, as pressure rises on production of the red metal.

Board Chairman Juan Benavides said 2,473 workers had already recovered while 37 remain hospitalized, according to comments made to a mining commission made up of lower-house lawmakers and confirmed by Codelco.

Chile's copper miners have largely maintained output despite soaring case numbers in the South American country, though pressure has been mounting for companies to strengthen safety measures, even potentially at the expense of production.

Unions at Codelco, which has a workforce of about 60,000 including contract workers, said last week that nearly 3,000 workers had been infected.

Some unions and social groups have called on Codelco and other miners to halt operations around the mining hub of Calama, a desert city surrounded by some of Chile's largest copper deposits.

Chile's mining minister told Reuters this month that the government will prioritize the health of workers in its vital mining sector, even if it affects production.


(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Tom Brown)

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