Magnitude 6.8 earthquake hits northern Chile; copper, lithium mines unaffected

(Reuters) – A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck in the mine-heavy northern Chile early on Wednesday, monitoring groups confirmed, though mining companies told Reuters their operations were not impacted.

The quake struck at a depth of 145 km (90 miles), the German Research Center for Geosciences said, and its epicentre was about 62 km southwest of San Pedro de Atacama, close to several large lithium and copper mines, including Codelco’s Chuquicamata and Ministro Hales.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, BHP and Antofagasta told Reuters the quake caused no damage or operational problems at their sites.

The world’s top two lithium miners, Albemarle Corp and SQM also confirmed operations were normal despite the proximity of the tremor to their mines in the Atacama salt flat.

In Chile, a South American nation often rocked by large earthquakes, mining facilities are built to withstand large earthquakes.

Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru and Fabian Cambero in Santiago; additional reporting by Dave Sherwood, Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker