Major miners betting on Chilean copper production

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2023
Major miners betting on Chilean copper production

Miners Glencore, Capstone Copper and BHP are investing in their Chilean assets to ensure continuity of copper production as the industry is recovering.

Output fell 6% year-on-year in January-November 2022 while exports fell 17.6%, according to the International Copper Study Group and the international economic relations department.

Copper commission Cochilco expects output to reach 5.65Mt this year, compared to 5.35Mt in 2022, and increase 1.3% annually to peak at 7.14Mt in 2030.


Last year, the Switzerland-based miner’s Chilean subsidiary recorded attributable production at its Collahuasi mine of 251,100t of copper in concentrate, down 9% year-on-year, due to lower ore extraction and the pandemic, according to the yearly production report.

Glencore owns 44% of Collahuasi, where a US$3.2bn plan to develop infrastructure and improve production capacity is being implemented to extend mine life through 2040.

The plan includes a desalination plant, improved ore treatment and increasing the sulfide mineral processing rate from 170,000t/d to 210,000t/d.

A US$120mn investment focuses on accelerating construction. Environmental review agency SEA requested more details on the environmental impact statement, to be submitted by February 17.

At Lomas Bayas, in Antofagasta region, cathode production increased 13% to 72,600t thanks to new technologies and surface expansion of the leaching processes.

A US$254mn adaptation investment will provide resources for the plant’s leaching and supply process from 2024 to 2029 to guarantee cathode production of 80,000t/y. The environmental impact statement was approved in January.


The Canadian miner will start the first phase of its US$825mn Mantoverde developmentin Atacama region this year to ensure operational continuity through 2042.

Annual copper production is expected to increase from 49,000t to 120,000t from 2024.

Pre-feasibility of a second phase is also advancing, involving US$326mn to increase production to over 136,000t/y of copper from 2026.

At Mantos Blancos, in Antofagasta region, US$250mn are being invested to de-bottleneck the concentrator and increase plant capacity to 7.3Mt/y. In April-December 2022, production was around 54,000t of fine copper.

A feasibility study for a second phase is expected for 2H23, involving US$89.5mn to increase the concentrator feed to 10Mt/y, reaching 80,000t/y of copper by 2025.


The Australian miner’s Chilean subsidiary submitted for environmental assessment a technologies and infrastructure upgrade for the Spence mine, involving US$1.65bn to ensure continuity of the leaching processes through 2039 and production of 270,000t/y of copper in the first four years.

Construction should start in 2025 and involves optimizing concentrator performance and pit extension to increase the extraction rate, according to the environmental impact study submitted last week.

BHP's Cerro Colorado mine will close operations this year upon expiration of its environmental license.

Photo credit: Spence, BHP

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