Chile’s Mines and Refineries Escape Damage from Aftershocks

March 12, 2010

Chile’s mining and refinery sectors escaped damage Thursday as a series of powerful aftershocks rocked the world’s largest copper producer in the wake of one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.

Chile’s Codelco and global miner Anglo American said all their mines were unharmed after seven tremors — one as strong as 6.9-magnitude — rocked the southern-central area near the epicenter of the massive Feb. 27 earthquake that killed hundreds of people. “We do not have any reports of damage,” a Codelco spokeswoman said.

The latest aftershocks shook Rancagua, a city near Codelco’s giant underground mine El Teniente, just as new conservative president Sebastian Pinera was being inaugurated [See IJ web site –].

Dozens of aftershocks in the days following the 8.8-magnitude quake which knocked down roads, bridges and thousands of houses have so far caused no new fatalities or serious destruction.

The bulk of Chile’s key copper industry is located in the north, far from the hardest hit areas.

El Teniente and Andina, Codelco’s second- and third-largest mines by production with combined annual output last year of 614,000 tons, were only briefly offline after the initial quake, and were operating normally on Thursday.
“Everything is normal. No problems. There was no damage to the operations in the central region,” Marcelo Esquivel, Anglo American’s spokesman in Chile’s capital Santiago told Reuters.


Two of Chile’s top oil refineries damaged by the original quake remain shut. The Bio Bio refinery and the smaller Aconcagua refinery suffered no additional damage from the aftershocks, although workers were evacuated for safety reasons, union leaders at both plants said. The Bio Bio refinery could be offline for two to three months, the union leaders said.

Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters Thursday evening that Aconcagua would come back on line this week.

Golborne also said Chile had arranged two diesel shipments but did not clarify whether those were in addition to fuel cargoes announced earlier. Chile has increased fuel shipments to cover shortages from the refinery closures.

The navy sent all boats out to open sea, including tankers, after a tsunami alert as a preventive measure. The navy later lifted the tsunami alert for Chile’s coastal areas, but the alert remained in place for Easter Island.

(Editing by Simon Gardner and David Gregorio)

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