By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The mining industry in Chile, the world’s largest copper producer, on Tuesday called on the government to take action to stop an “escalation of crime” that has hit operations in the country’s far north.
The call comes after the robbery last week of some 500 ounces of gold worth the equivalent of $1 million from the premises of a company, in addition to attempts to rob copper trucks and a train transporting copper cathodes, according to the National Mining Society (Sonami).
“We hope that the levels of crime, which have increased in the country recently, do not directly affect us and that the different operations can continue operating without putting their workers at risk,” said Sonami’s president, Diego Hernandez, in a press release.
“It is key that the authority adopts the necessary measures to ensure safety in mining operations and the transport of copper and other mineral shipments,” he added.
Concerns have mounted in recent months over a rise in crime in the north of the country, which is also affected by an irregular migration crisis and has even led local authorities to ask the government to declare a state of emergency.
The government has launched a plan to increase police presence and surveillance in the northern region, which has vast unpopulated areas due to its location in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world.
The local mining industry has for years reported the theft of goods such as copper by organized gangs, and police have reported various operations in which tons of copper ore have been recovered from robberies.
Photos and videos have circulated on social media of strangers throwing copper plates from trains transporting the reddish metal in the middle of the South American nation’s arid northern region.
Neither the PDI nor Sonami immediately had figures available on the extent of the crimes.
(Reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero in Santiago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)