Chile's Codelco keeps Rajo Inca construction halted after fatal accident

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean state-owned Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, is keeping its Rajo Inca project construction on hold to investigate a fatal accident that happened earlier this month, authorities and the company said on Monday.

Construction has been stopped since last Sunday after an accident involving a contractor. On Monday, company executives and regulators showed details of the accident during a session of the country's Chamber of Deputies Mining Commission.

During the session it was revealed that a truck driven by a contractor who was working in the pre-stripping process slid off a platform at a dump while the operator was outside of the control cabin. The truck then slid 40 meters (131 feet) down a slope killing the operator.

"Work has been paralyzed since last Sunday and we are not operating the pit and we are precisely in the process of redefining the conditions under which we can operate again," Codelco board president Maximo Pacheco said.

Pacheco added that an internal commission was investigating what happened, in addition to the government enquiries.

The stoppage was ordered after regulators detected several faults including problems with parking yards and access controls. Regulators also found a lack of accredited training and poor maintenance according to David Montenegro, the head of mining regulator Sernageomin.

"The standards of the divisions are not consistent with the standards that the vice presidency (of projects) works on and we have detected this on more than one occasion," Montenegro said.

The $1.6 billion Rajo Inca project seeks to extend the life of the small Salvador Division, which produced 53,000 tonnes of copper last year.

(Reporting by Fabián Andrés Cambero; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Sandra Maler)