Grinding at Anglo American’s (LON:AAL) Los Bronces copper mine in Chile has been halted after the firm detected a leak in a pipe carrying ground ore mixed with water on Sunday evening.
According to local newspaper La Tercera (in Spanish), the discharge was noticed on farmland outside the capital Santiago during a routine inspection of the pipe, which connects Anglo’s flagship mine with the Las Tortolas flotation plant.
Anglo American said the pipe does not carry tailings from the mining process and that an investigation was underway. It also noted that water in the nearby river does is not for human consumption.
Anglo American said the pipe does not carry tailings from the mining process, but only ground ore mixed with water.
The company, however, will hire an external company to carry out sampling and determine whether any contamination was caused by the leakage.
Last year, Chile’s environment regulator hit Anglo American with a $6.2 million fine, ordering the company to shut one of its waste dumps at the Los Bronces mine, as it said irreparable damage had been done to surrounding land.
Production at Los Bronces, perched 3,500 meters high up in the Andes 65km north-east of Santiago, reached 401,700 mt in 2015. The mine’s output represents roughly 7% of the South American nation’s total annual copper production.
Anglo owns 50.1% of the operation. Chilean state miner Codelco and Japanese trading houses Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. also have stakes in the complex.