On the last days of March this year, Northern Chile was soaked in a thunderstorm that swept through the Atacama Desert and its neighboring communities. The result was overwhelming: the streets flooded in mud, the roads blocked, and the power cut off.
In other parts of the world, it would seem normal to have such a meteorological happening once a year, but not in Chile. The country has been experiencing its worst drought in decades, only to be answered with 17 years worth of rainfall in a span of hours. Even heads of the country were baffled on the sudden rains because the Atacama Desert has been experiencing aridity for millions of years.
Chile’s President, Michelle Bachelet, admitted that the government fell short on precautionary methods. “The previous forecast was that there was a huge drought here, so the rains were not necessarily seen as a catastrophe. Foreseeing was really difficult because no one knew,” said Bachelet in a report by The Guardian.
Aside from the damages that hit the communities, the Chilean mining sector was deeply affected, with some mines even forced to close down. According to a recent report by Reuters, three major mining companies are still under suspended operations.
Codelco, which is Chile’s top copper mine, has deferred operations at its Ministro Hales, Chuquicamata, Radomiro Tomic, Salvador, and Gabriela Mistral deposits, since the roads and mine access are still blocked. These mines produced 59 percent of the 1.67 million tons of copper that Codelco produced in the past year. The report added that this recent thunderstorm paralyzed the mining sector and the damages can be compared to the loss experienced during the April 2014 earthquake in the same area.
Other large-scale mines that were shut down include Michilla Mine and Centinela copper complex in Antofagasta, Lundin Mining Corporation’s Candelaria mine, and Anglo American PLC’s Mantoverde.
Though this might sound alarming in terms of production, market experts firmly believe that Chile’s mining industry will bounce back in time, and that production will not be affected in the long run. INTL FCStone broker, Edward Meir, stated that the damages are considered logistical loss rather than a production hurdle. “This is a logistical bottleneck as opposed to a major calamitous event like a landslide or an earthquake,” Meir told Reuters.
While some mining operations were forced to a halt, some stood strong throughout the thunderstorm. White Mountain Titanium Corporation(OTCQB: WMTM) stated in a press release that their ongoing project in Cerro Blanco was not affected by the thunderstorm and that all of their employees are accounted for. White Mountain Corporation’s development in the area aims to unearth 112 million tons of high-grade rutile, which will propel Chile at the top of the Titanium game.
To give further confidence to the mining sector, Mining Minister Aurora Williams affirmed that large- and medium-sized mines are free from significant damage after the flood, and that these suspensions were done to prevent greater damage that can unfold later on.