UPDATE 1-Freeport-McMoRan workers at New Mexico mine test positive for coronavirus

(Adds details on affected workers) By Ernest Scheyder April 6 (Reuters) – Three employees at a New Mexico mine owned by Freeport-McMoRan Inc, the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer, have tested positive for COVID-19, the state’s lieutenant governor said on Monday. It was not immediately clear if operations at the mine have been affected. A Freeport spokeswoman said the company planned to issue a statement later. Freeport alerted state officials last Thursday that employees in the Chino mine’s truck shop had tested positive. Their workstations have been disinfected and the employees sent home, New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales told Reuters. Chino, located near the state’s southwest border with Arizona, produced 175 million pounds of copper last year, making it the company’s third-largest North American mine by production. “I’m very concerned for the health and safety of the miners,” said Morales, a Democrat elected in 2018. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham deemed mining an essential industry for the state’s economy when she issued a statewide stay-at-home order for non-essential workers last month, a decision Morales said he agreed with. “I have encouraged Freeport and every employer in the state that they must take any complaint (of COVID-19 symptoms) seriously,” Morales said. Phoenix-based Freeport said last month it would stop dividend payouts and slash costs and output due to the rapid worldwide spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Freeport and its peers have been stockpiling fuel, hydrofluoric acid, lime and other industry staples as the coronavirus impact has torn through global supply chains. Several countries have forced miners to curtail or stop production. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O’Brien)

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