By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO, April 3 (Reuters) - Copper miners in Chile are considering cutting production amid strict measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, an association of companies in the sector has told Reuters.
A report by the National Mining Society (Sonami), which represents all miners of the red metal across Chile, the world's largest producer, said the realities of coronavirus were forcing the companies it represents to weigh tough decisions.
"Over the days, we have seen miners go from providing information about the disease and taking preventive measures to halting projects already underway," the association said in a statement sent to Reuters. "A decrease in production is already being contemplated in some companies."
Large companies have reduced manpower at their mines by up to 25% to 30% in a bid to cut contagion risks while others, such as state-run giant Codelco CODEL.UL, the world's largest copper miner, have suspended expansion and improvement projects.
Sonami said the small and medium-sized companies it represents had been particularly hard-hit since they do not have the financial resources behind them of the multinational giants such as such as BHP BHP.AX, Anglo American AAL.L, Glencore GLEN.L and Antofagasta ANTO.L, which operate in the country.
Sonami said that some medium-sized miners, already hard hit by softening global prices of the metal, had already started temporarily closing operations.
On Thursday the government said there were now 3,404 cases, 18 deaths and 335 people who had recovered from COVID-19.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Aislinn Laing Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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