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Minsur and JV partners Korea Resources and LS-Nikko, which have an approved environmental impact study for the project in Peru's Ica region, aim to time the start-up of production with a rebound in copper markets, said Marco Balcázar, head of social responsibility at the company's Marcobre copper unit.
The project, which has 3.3Mt in reserves and is expected to produce 110,000t/y over 10 years, faces copper prices that have slumped 25% to an average of US$2.22/lb through the third quarter, according to the central bank. Copper prices dropped to a six-year low earlier this month.
"The project is currently at the prefeasibility stage. Next year we should move on to the feasibility stage, which will run through all of 2016," Balcázar told local TV station Canal N. "We're not in a good moment in terms of prices. But this cycle of low prices will tend to rise, and the best time to build is precisely when prices are low, to produce when they're high."
The companies are working to promote tourism and other industries with local communities to avoid the kind social problems that have plagued Shougang's Hierro Perú iron ore mine in the same region, Balcázar said.
Strikes over wage demands and better working conditions have left at least one dead at Hierro Perú this year.
Lima-based Minsur, which boosted capex at its three mines by 12% to US$15.2mn in the third quarter, plans to bring online the US$180mn B2 tin tailings project at its San Rafael mine in the second half of 2018, producing 5,000-6,000t/y, CEO Juan Luis Kruger said last month.
Minsur posted a US$26.9mn consolidated third quarter loss, compared with a US$8.6mn profit a year earlier, as sales fell 39% to US$226mn due to lower tin prices and production.
Peru is counting on Mina Justa, part of the country's US$64bn mining investment portfolio over the next decade, to help boost annual copper production to 4Mt/y by 2025.