May 27, 2019 / 5:53 PM / a year ago

Codelco chief criticizes low productivity, regulatory hurdles in Chile -newspaper

SANTIAGO, May 27 (Reuters) - The head of state-run miner Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, said Chile's mining industry was increasingly held back by new environmental regulations and the low productivity of Chilean workers, local daily La Tercera reported on Monday.

Codelco Chief Executive Nelson Pizarro said in a presentation on Friday that regulatory hurdles were only adding to problems that have long plagued Chile's mines, including water shortages, plunging ore grades and increased costs of energy, the daily reported.

"Every day we have to take two steps backward to confront another new environmental regulation, which has created an insufferable level of uncertainty," he said.

Codelco confirmed to Reuters that Pizarro had made the comments at a private seminar on Friday.

His statements come as Codelco's massive open-pit Chuquicamata mine undergoes a complex, environmentally sensitive $5 billion transformation in a bid to extend the lifespan of the century-old deposit. Amid the overhaul, the unions at the mine have threatened to strike over troublesome labor negotiations.

Pizarro also criticized Chilean mine workers, saying Peruvian workers were twice as productive, according to the report.

"I think the development of policies in Chile ... has made it so that the hours worked (by Chilean workers) are only little more than half of the formal workday," Pizarro said.

Reuters reported exclusively last week that production at Chuquicamata will drop by 40% over the next two years.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago Writing by Dave Sherwood Editing by Matthew Lewis

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