Chile: Heavy rains halt operations at major copper mines

SANTIAGO – Heavy rains lashed the high altitude desert region of Antofagasta overnight and into Wednesday, suspending key operations at major mines in northern Chile.

BHP Billiton’s Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, said it was snowing and all operations had been suspended.

State-run Codelco [COBRE.UL] said mining activities at its flagship Chuquicamata deposit and at nearby Radomiro Tomic and Ministro Hales had been suspended as a preventative measure, while Antofagasta said Centinela and Zaldivar had suffered intermittent interruptions.

Polish miner KGHM’s Sierra Gorda said it was considering whether to restrict some operations as a precaution.

The heavy rains in Antofagasta, forecast to continue through Wednesday, led Chile’s emergency service Onemi to trigger its highest ‘red alert’ warning. No damage has yet been reported.