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Human rights group claims Hudbay Peru COVID-19 outbreak, company says cases not confirmed

Positive tests presumptive, not confirmed: spokesperson

A report from a South American activist group claims several positive tests of COVID-19 have been found at Hudbay’s Constancia mine in Peru.

The report, issued May 9 by the Peruvian chapter of Human Rights Without Borders (HRWB), levels several claims against Hudbay operations in Peru, saying COVID-19 has been found among workers at the mine among other allegations.

The report claims that at least 18 workers at the Constancia facility tested positive for COVID-19 and that the company “did not take adequate measures to protect its workers and the general population and did not provide information about the outbreak to local health authorities despite its claims to be ‘responsible’,” according to a translation of the report. The initial report is available only in Spanish.

“After 45 days of operations, it was made public through local authorities that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in the Constancia mining unit, before which the company in its statement dated April 26 denies said complaint, affirming that ‘currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our Constancia mining unit. None,’” reads the translated report.

According to the report, a separate report from regional health authorities released April 27 showed multiple positive tests at Constancia as of April 23 and 24 - 18 presumptive positive tests in total. The health report, once again in Spanish, is included in the HRWB report, along with correspondence from Hudbay dated April 26 and pronouncements from local and regional councils.

When reached for comment, a Hudbay spokesperson said so-called “quick tests” for COVID-19 had been administered to employees in the regions of Arequipa and Cusco under supervision of health authorities. The spokesperson disputed the findings of the initial HRWB report, saying the results from “quick tests” - equivalent to what Canadian health authorities have called presumptive positive tests - are not the same as confirmed positive tests.

“The quick tests allow us to ‘triage’ potential cases prior to any workers commencing travel to the Constancia site and they are not as accurate as the molecular tests. A positive quick test does not indicate a confirmed COVID-19 case. If a quick test comes back positive, we then refer the case to the public health authorities for further molecular testing and ensure the affected personnel are appropriately quarantined and are not permitted to board the bus to Constancia,” said the spokesperson.

“Despite some inaccurate news on ‘confirmed COVID-19 cases’ at Constancia based on positive preliminary results of quick tests, further testing performed by public health authorities has not confirmed any positive COVID-19 cases to-date.”

Hudbay suspended work at Constancia March 19 after supply chain changes in supplies needed to continue operation. A state of emergency was declared by the Peruvian government March 15 along with a shutdown of all non-essential businesses, but Hudbay was not required to close Constancia by government decree as an essential business. The Constancia mine, according to Hudbay, received approval to reopen May 14 from Peru’s national mining ministry.

In the region of Cusco, where the Constancia mine is located, 793 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of May 23.

Around 750 full-time Hudbay staff work at the mine. All Hudbay employees at the mine facility are Peruvian-based, but non-Peruvian outside contractors often work at the mine site.

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