London-based Antofagasta plc (LSE: ANTO) is likely to start development works on its US$950mn Antucoya copper project in northern Chile's region II by year-end, CEO Marcelo Awad said at the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday.
"The feasibility study at Antucoya is nearing completion and, depending on a satisfactory outcome, project approval and necessary environmental permitting, initial works could commence by the end of this year, followed by a construction period of approximately two years," Awad said.
Originally planned as an additional deposit for the nearby Michilla operation, Antucoya is now a standalone operation with a mine life of 19 years. It is expected to produce an average of 80,000t/y of copper cathodes from an open pit and heap leaching-SX-EW facilities.
First production is expected in early 2014.
EXPANSION AT LOS PELAMBRES
The company has also completed a scoping study to evaluate further expansion opportunities at the Los Pelambres copper operation in region IV.
"We have just approved work on a detailed prefeasibility study to analyze the potential for an expansion of the operation. While any such expansion would be a complex and long-term undertaking, we could have the potential to significantly expand this already world-class asset," Awad said.
A US$1bn expansion at Los Pelambres was completed in 1Q10, increasing the company's total output from 442,500t in 2009 to 521,100t last year.
Antofagasta plc controls Chilean miner Antofagasta Minerals, operator of the Los Pelambres, El Tesoro, Michilla and Esperanza mines.