Blackout

Santiago, Chile — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 26 September 2011 – A massive power blackout darkened vast swaths of Chile, including the capital city, over the weekend, and also paralysed crucial copper mines in the country before energy started to be restored.

Reuters reports that the outage acutely exposed the fragility of the energy grid in the world’s top copper producer, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 2010.

Critics have blamed Chilean President Sebastian Pinera for under-investment in infrastructure and his popularity ratings have dropped since taking office last year.

Engineers scrambling to restore power were able to get the lights turned on in at least some districts of Santiago, and at the sprawling El Teniente copper mine of state-owned Codelco, officials and Reuters witnesses said.

“We’ve regained power in various regions of the country,” said Chilean energy minister Rodrigo Alvarez.

At an earlier briefing, Alvarez said the cause of the outage was unknown but that computers that helped run the energy grid had also malfunctioned. The blackout primarily hit the center of the country, where nearly 10 million of Chile’s 16 million people live.

Initially, Anglo American said its Los Bronces mine had been halted and state-run Codelco said its Andina division and El Teniente mine had also been paralysed. Output had not been hurt at Andina, as generators were used.

Meanwhile, Los Bronces said it was relying on generators and added that production was at a third of capacity as normal energy supplies had yet to come on line.

Authorities said the Collahuasi and Chuquicamata mines in the far north of Chile had  not been affected as the blackout did not extend that far.