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Mining: A great ally for Chile against the Coronavirus

Opinion column
Minister of Mining Baldo Prokurica

There is no doubt that in these past weeks the entire world and Chile have faced the worst health catastrophe of the last 100 years, such is the spread of the Coronavirus.

Under this scenario, we have to prioritize and protect the life and health of workers and, to the extent possible, maintain operational continuity and not completely paralyze mining activity.

Along these lines, my call is for companies in the industry to take the necessary measures to care for their workers.

On the other hand, we must consider that the endowments of the mining companies are not made up only of workers from the actual working sites, but that many must move from one region to another, which increases the possibility of getting infected by Coronavirus. That is why I request companies to avoid these travellings and, therefore, at least for know, prioritize in their operations the officials who live in the place where their projects are located.

At the same time and aware of the effects of this pandemic, the Government of President Sebastián Piñera launched a robust plan to strengthen the economy a few days ago for close to 12 billion dollars, which will help workers and SMEs as well as small and medium mining.

In this context, I take the opportunity of writing these lines, to recognize the strict measures that companies in the sector have adopted, such as the body temperature controls at the entrances, registration of passengers in each of the transfers to and from operations, distance between people during travels and location in casinos, as well as the sanitation of common spaces and transfer vehicles.

Likewise, I value the contribution of equipment to process Coronavirus analysis samples to health services or the installation of machinery in campaign hospitals. All this added to the delivery of personal protection elements for the law inforcements officers, as has happened in the north of the country.

In other words, everything I describe is a powerful sign that Chilean mining, despite facing a complex moment as a result of low copper prices and the effects of this pandemic, always shows its solidarity in times of emergency and, this time, has not been the exception.

Regarding the Ministry, we have been helping small miners through Enami with the application of a copper support price of $2.86 for each producer who delivers their mineral to this company. Also, we opened the option to those who have a debt with this company, they can renegotiate it, as well as automatically renew the standards, and we decided to advance the payments to those who deliver copper and gold.

Another important aspect that I want to highlight is the importance of the properties of copper as an excellent and effective antiviral and antimicrobial agent in the control of Coronavirus. Hence, infectious disease experts recommend that surfaces exposed to the public be covered in red metal. For example, in our country they are already present in hospital facilities in Calama, Santiago or Rancagua, as well as in contact surfaces of the international airport of the Metropolitan Region or the Antofagasta bus terminal.

In this sense, my call is to promote new emblematic copper intervention projects such as nurseries, buildings, schools or public transportation in the country, in the same way, to promote Chilean ventures such as the manufacture of masks that make a great contribution to the community .

In conclusion, in the face of this complex moment we are facing, our Government will not leave its workers or SMEs alone and we are convinced that it will be mining that will help us finance a large part of the economic reactivation measures and put the Chilean families back on their feet as it has always been throughout history.

Baldo Prokurica Prokurica
Minister of Mining.