(Adds Teck comment in paragraph 9)
LIMA, March 17 (Reuters) - Miners shuttered or wound down operations in Peru on Tuesday and girded for extended supply chain disruptions in neighboring Chile as governments tightened curbs to slow the spread of a coronavirus in the resource-rich region.
Pan American Silver said it would temporarily shut four mines in Peru, the industry’s latest response to a 15-day national quarantine imposed by the government.
Peru, the world’s No.2 copper producer after Chile and its sixth-largest gold producer, has suspended constitutional rights, including free movement and assembly, to fight the highly contagious virus, which had infected 71 people by Sunday.
In a statement on Tuesday, Peru’s mining ministry said the sector would get some leeway for “critical” operations during the national emergency, although with certain safety, health and environmental conditions.
Mining firms “will be able to transfer essential personnel to mining units to guarantee the maintenance of their critical operations and their restoration to normal levels after the emergency,” it said.
Miners could continue to transport mineral concentrates and other merchandise “to ensure the operations and logistics cycle” of the sector, the ministry added.
Top gold producer Newmont Corp halted operations at its Yanacocha gold mine north of Lima, while global miner Anglo American said it would slow construction work at its Quellaveco copper project.
Representatives of Southern Copper, which runs copper mines in southern Peru, were not immediately available to comment.
Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd said a reduced workforce would maintain critical operations at its Antamina copper-zinc mine under an exemption from government restrictions. There had been no confirmed cases of the virus at the mine site, it said.
A spokeswoman for Melbourne-headquartered MMG Ltd, which runs the giant Las Bambas copper mine, said it had closed its Lima office for two weeks and employees were working from home.
In copper and lithium-rich Chile, coronavirus cases jumped to near 200 on Tuesday, with authorities shutting borders, schools and prohibiting gatherings of large groups.
However, impacts on mining output have been minimal, miners in Chile said.
Lithium producer SQM said a combination of border closures, reduced commercial activity and disruptions in supply chains had cut shipments to China by roughly 2,000 metric tonnes.
Competitor Albemarle Corp said its Chile output had not been hit, but had warned previously of a “weak” first quarter in China, where the virus emerged late last year.
Chilean copper miner Antofagasta Plc cut capital spending and said it would stockpile supplies of fuel, acid, spare parts and equipment amid the virus threat. (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru, Jeff Lewis in Toronto and Marco Aquino in Lima; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Clarence Fernandez and Andrea Ricci)