The torrential rain that hit the Atacama Desert were followed by rising flood waters that forced large mining companies to shut down operations momentarily. Antofagasta PLC (LSE:ANTO), a British-owned copper mining firm based in Chile, was forced to shut down three of its mines on signals that the Copiapo River would overflow amid continuous downpour.
The company had to shut down three operations — Centinela, Antucoya, and Michilla — during the deluge, while its largest mine, Los Pelambres, continued to operate. Glencore (LSE:GLEN) had also opted for a simultaneous shutdown, though the company’s Chilean operations did not really suffered from major setbacks. Among interrupted mines in the Atacama region, the company’s Altonorte and Lomas Bayas sites were the first ones to resume operations.
State-owned Codelco, the world’s leading copper miner, had to close all of its mining sites in the Atacama area as the heavy rains caused dangerous conditions for their giant trucks. The company’s other sites are currently operating using stockpiled material.
Other mining companies that are forced to shut down operations include Lundin Mining Corp., BHP Billiton Ltd., Southern Copper Corp., Teck Resources Ltd., and Anglo American Plc. Fortunately, not all mining operations in the area had to suffer from the same difficulty. Among the few companies that were not affected by the deluge is rutile explorer White Mountain Titanium Corporation (OTCQB:WMTM).
The titanium dioxide-focused company announced that the recent heavy rainfall in the Atacama Desert has not affected any aspects of the Company’s Cerro Blanco project. The Cerro Blanco Project, which is located approximately 39 kilometres west of Vallenar City in Atacama, consists of 41 registered mining exploitation concessions and 34 mining exploration concessions, covering an area of approximately 17,041 hectares.
According to the experts, the deluge that hit the Atacama Desert is the worst rain-related disaster that befell Northern Chile in 80 years. The Chilean government declared a state of emergency upon seeing the aftermath of the disaster. Ejército de Chile, the country’s army, remains in charge of public order in the region.
Environmental experts are still surprised with the phenomenon, as the country’s northern region is famed for being one of the driest places on earth. The mining town of Calama, for instance, has an average of 0.2 inch of rain a year. Many of the affected mining companies have already resumed operations.
According to Edward Meir of INTL FCStone New York, the interruptions due to the floods are not expected to impact the mining market this year. “This is a logistical bottleneck as opposed to a major calamitous event like a landslide or an earthquake,” Meir told Reuters.
Chilean mining minister Aurora Williams said that the deluge has not introduced any significant damage to both large-and medium-sized mines, pinpointing that the suspensions are preventative.