March 18, 2020 / 2:09 PM / in 2 months

UPDATE 1-Teck Resources halts Chile copper expansion due to coronavirus

(Adds detail, CEO comment)

March 18 (Reuters) - Canada’s Teck Resources on Wednesday suspended construction at a massive copper project in Chile, the latest in a series of disruptions caused by coronavirus in the resource-rich region.

Teck joins global miner Anglo American Plc, gold producer Newmont Corp and others in shuttering mines and winding down operations in Latin America as governments tighten curbs to fight the fast-spreading virus.

Vancouver-based Teck said it would halt work effective immediately at its $4.7 billion Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) expansion for an initial two-week period. It said the move would affect a workforce of roughly 15,000 over the coming days.

“Considering the significant size and scale of the QB2 project, and the fact that workers on the project commute in large numbers from all over Chile, this is the right decision to protect the health and safety of workers and their families, and to support the Chilean government efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19,” Teck Chief Executive Don Lindsay said in a statement.

Teck shares were down 12.5% in early trading.

Countries around South America, including Argentina and Chile, are closing their borders to non-residents amid fears the coronavirus could take hold in the region in a similar manner as parts of Asia and Europe.

Teck said there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, associated with QB2 employees or contractors to date.

The miner did not say when it would restart construction, saying it would develop a plan to do so “as soon as possible, subject to further developments in the response to COVID-19.” (Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru and Jeff Lewis in Toronto; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Andrea Ricci)

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