Escondida Starts on Phase IV Expansion Study

Bnamericas Published: Friday, January 08, 1999
Chile's Region II copper mine Escondida has entered the new year working on long-term plans to lift treatment capacity in order to maintain current 800,000 tonnes/year production levels amid a natural fall-off in copper grade, a company spokesperson said. Escondida was engaged in engineering studies for a Phase IV expansion by increasing processing capacity of sulfide mineral, external affairs manager Juan Carlos Ortiz Espinoza told BNA. He did not disclose the studies' costs or schedule, but Escondida has previously said the studies would take a year. The Phase IV engineering studies follow completion last November, one month ahead of schedule, of the US$473mn, 125,000-tonne/year oxide plant, part of an approximately US$800mn outlay that included US$140mn to raise treatment capacity at the sulfide concentrator plant. The investment also funded a program to increase water supply to the mine, which is situated in the world's driest desert Atacama. Looking further ahead, Ortiz said the company planned to develop the Escondida Norte deposit through open-pit mining, with preliminary studies, including a pilot plant, already underway. Escondida was not carrying out new explorations, he added. As of May 1996, the mine had around 2.072Bt of proven and probable reserves with an average grade of 1.28% and cut-off grade of 0.7%. Its mine life was estimated at more than 40 years. Escondida is 57.5%-owned by Australia's BHP, 30% by the UK's RTZ, 10% by Japan's Jeco and 2.5% by the World Bank's Intern Finance Corp.

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