Mina Candelaria, like other mining sites in Chile, has resolved their union conflicts for the time being. The industry faces other threats but production is coping with new COVID-19 related safety protocols.
A senior manager at a mining union association in Chile reports, “Negotiations with the Candelaria unions are under control and no complications are expected in 2021. The outcome is similar to other mining companies in Chile and in general the results are good.”
“Negotiations with the Candelaria unions are under control and no complications are expected in 2021.”
Senior manager, mining union association, Chile
The same manager warns that the situation could change in the event of drastic increases in COVID-19 infections. “If this happens, some unions, especially those with more visibility, could try to demand higher benefits or more favourable conditions that are not contemplated in current agreements.” For a union like Candelaria’s, the risk is relatively low as it is not highly visible on the national stage.
An experienced mining executive in Chile, warns another unexpected labour problem may soon face miners in Chile, “In parts of the country, the state subsidies given to the population under COVID-19 measures have generated shortages of Chilean labour. Combined with limitations on foreign workers (from Bolivia and Peru) the supply of temporary workers is very limited, hurting contractors and service providers.”
The pandemic has not had a huge impact on copper production in Chile as well-designed safety protocols have been simple to adopt. The mining industry, especially the large mines, is capital and technology intensive but has very low labour intensity, making it is easier to adopt safety protocols and quarantines.
Miners have been working long shifts and having very little contact with co-workers. This is not too different from normal operating practices where crowds are infrequent, except on shuttle buses – there is more risk around transfers than in operations. A mining executive in Chile confirms, “The protocols implemented by large mining companies have relatively little impact on production and are capable of facing successive waves. However, artisanal mining tends to have health and safety problems and it is highly likely that infections are greater in this sector.”
“The protocols implemented by large mining companies have relatively little impact on production and are capable of facing successive waves.”
Mining executive, Chile
Copper production in Chile has survived labour issues and a global pandemic but the reduced demand for copper during the first half of 2020 was painful. The effects derived from changes in the price of copper dwarfed those of the unions and the COVID-19 pandemic combined. With global demand recovering and the price of copper rising, the outlook for Chile’s miners is positive.