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Peru miners aiming for full-strength workforce by year-end, minister says

LIMA, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Peru’s miners hope to have their workforce back up to full strength by the end of the year, the country’s energy and mines minister said on Monday, as the world’s No. 2 copper producer ramps up after being slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister Miguel Inchaustegui said the reduced workforce was affecting output and construction of new mines, such as Anglo American’s $5.3 billion Quellaveco project in the country’s south.

“In the case of companies in operation, they are projecting that in November-December they will have 100% of their personnel working,” the minister said during the virtual conference with foreign press.

Local copper production, which had been recovering since May when some restrictions were lifted, fell by 2.5% in August to 193,852 tonnes compared to July, when it reached almost pre-pandemic levels, government data show.

The official said there had been 4,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among mining sector workers until mid-September. The country has almost 830,000 cases, the sixth in the world.

Inchaustegui said the reason for the August production drop was the labor issue, which would be key in months ahead.

“That will mean that by the end of the year we will have a lower copper production, but in 2021 levels will recover once the companies operate with all their personnel,” he said. Peru produced around 2.45 million tonnes of copper in 2019.

Inchaustegui said separately on Monday that the government expected to have a bill on the regulation and exploitation of uranium and lithium ready in the last quarter of the year for its pre-publication and discussion. (Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by David Gregorio)

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