Earthquake claims 540 in Peru

As rescuers continue to recover bodies from the rubble after a devastating earthquake struck Peru in mid-August, Pan American Silver (PAA-T, PAAS-Q) temporarily suspended its underground operations until the aftershocks subside.

Geoff Burns, Pan American Silver’s president and chief executive, took steps on Aug. 17 to suspend operations after a fatal accident occurred at the company’s Huaron silver-zinc mine, 320 km northeast of the capital, Lima.

“While the accident may not be related to the seismic activity,” he said in a statement, “out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our miners, I have temporarily suspended underground operations at Huaron and Morococha until I can be assured that conditions are safe.”

Underground inspections identified minor rock falls in a limited number of production zones at the company’s Huaron and Morococha sites. Morococha lies 50 km southwest of Huaron. Underground operations should resume within 48 hours, the company stated in a press release.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicentre of the 8-magnitude quake was beneath the Pacific Ocean, about 145 km southeast of Lima. The centre of destruction was in Peru’s southern port city of Pisco, about 200 km southeast of Lima. President Alan Garcia told a news conference in Pisco that the government was preparing plans to rebuild the city, which lost 85% of its houses.

The death toll so far has reached 540 people, with about 1,500 injured.

Platts Metals Week, quoting an unnamed source, reported that the Funsur tin refinery in Pisco was forced to shut down as a result of the quake. The source said no one had died at the plant but that there was no power and that the plant would be closed indefinitely. The Funsur tin refinery is majority owned by Peru’s Brescia group.

Most mining companies, however, are reporting that it’s business as usual.

“We didn’t have any damage underground,” says Kirsten Marcia, a Toronto-based spokeswoman for Vena Resources (vem-t, vnarf-o), whose Azulchocha zinc mine is located 200 km northeast of the quake’s epicentre. “Despite the fact that they did feel it, there was no damage to the infrastructure and operations are normal.”

Only minor delays are anticipated while phone lines and power are restored to the affected regions.

In the capital city of Lima, buildings shook violently during the prolonged tremors, prompting Vena Resources to close its office there for a few days in the event of further aftershocks.

Says Marcia: “We wanted to give employees time to be with their families.”

Mining operations at Chariot Resources’ (CHD-T, CHDSF-O) Mina Justa project, 480 km south of Lima, were also unaffected by the quake.

“They felt a shake, that was it,” says Ulli Rath, the company’s president and chief executive. “Everything is normal and they are working away.”

The Mina Justa project, in southwestern Peru, is the first discovery of iron-oxide copper gold (IOCG) in Peru and one of the largest in the Andes.

Rath told The Northern Miner that earthquakes are common in Peru.

“Earthquakes in Peru are a weekly event,” he says. “Traditionally, the big earthquakes have been in the south, but we get smaller earthquakes all up and down the east coast of Peru and they are very common occurrences.”

Cardero Resource (CDU-T, CDY-X), Gold Hawk Resources (CGK-V, CGHRF-O), Doe Run Peru, and Compania de Minas Buenaventura (BVN-N) all reported their operations were continuing as usual.


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