For over a month, our team in Chile has been working tirelessly to restore operations at Maricunga and return to normalcy at La Coipa, after a devastating flood in late March washed out roads, bridges and power lines and damaged thousands of homes, including those of Kinross employees, in Chile’s northern Atacama region.
At the time of what is being described as “the worst rain disaster to fall on the north in 80 years,” much of the city of Copiapo was under several feet of mud and water. Kinross’ office was heavily damaged and remains unusable while many employees have had to resettle their families to other nearby cities as the Chilean Government and armed forces work to restore services and infrastructure.
Despite the personal challenges many faced, Kinross employees rose to the challenge; helping to identify and clear alternate routes up to Maricunga, which is located at 4,600 metres above sea level, and assess the damage to some 40 km of power lines up to the site. With all helicopters being commandeered by the Chilean army after the government declared a state of emergency, some Kinross employees took to ATVs and horses to survey road conditions in the High Andes.
“We’re immensely proud of our team in Chile, who have faced several challenges in recent years and are pulling together incredibly well during this very unfortunate event. Despite the family issues and very real hardships that many of them are facing, they are working day and night to recover operations. The team effort is exemplary of our Kinross values and we applaud each and every one of them for their hard work and determination,” says Bob Musgrove, VP Operations, South America.
Our team succeeded in clearing alternate access routes to both sites and has begun construction of a temporary power plant that will enable crushing to resume at Maricunga. This power plant is located at a lower elevation, where the power line is intact up to Maricunga. Work continues to reopen the main access roads in coordination with Chilean government agencies. An alternate office has been activated on the outskirts of Copiapo while clean-up of the main office continues.
Despite the obvious impact to production from Maricunga we remain on track to meet our regional guidance targets.
While the team works to restore infrastructure, a crisis management team has also focused on providing food, water, shelter and cash (banking systems were down for several weeks) as well as soft loans and vaccinations against infectious diseases.
The local indigenous Colla communities were also severely affected, both their villages in the mountains and also their homes in Copiapo were damaged. We provided emergency medical support and are assisting with emergency supplies. As road access is gradually re-established, we are coordinating closely with the communities in advance of logistical operations.
Damaged electricity pylons on the route to Maricunga
Severe damage to the Maricunga road at Castaños pass
Copiapo offices underwater
Road in front of our offices in Copiapo
Gates to the Kinross office in Copiapo: before (March 27) and after (April 13)
Essential to recovery: drinking water and shovels