Escondida strike hurts Chile's February copper output

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The 43-day strike at BHP Billiton's Escondida copper mine in northern Chile hurt the country's red metal production in February, which was down 17.1% to 370,900t, the lowest monthly amount in the past three years.

Compared sequentially, copper output declined 17.2% from 448,100t in January, while for the first two months production was down 9.7% to 819,000t, according to the latest monthly report from state copper commission Cochilco.

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Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, produced just 20,000t of copper in February, as the strike started on February 9. Production in February 2016 was 81,000t and in January this year output reached 77,100t. January-February output was down 44.1% to 97,100t.

State copper giant Codelco posted a 1.4% year-on-year drop to 275,700t in January-February. Production at its Chuquicamata-Radomiro Tomic-Ministro Hales complex fell 9.4% to 122,900t, while output at its smallest mine, Salvador, was down 9.4% to 8,700t and El Teniente's dropped 10% to 73,100t.

Codelco's Andina saw 10.9% output growth to 37,800t in the two-month period, while its Gabriela Mistral division reported a 16.7% decline to 16,000t.

Collahuasi, a JV between Anglo American and Glencore and Chile's second largest copper mine, reported a 14.9% increase to 89,700t in the first two months, while production at Antofagasta Minerals' Los Pelambres fell 5.4% to 54,400t. Output at Lundin Mining's Candelaria was down 13.2% to 19,700t.

Anglo American Sur reported a 10.7% decline to 54,100t, while output at the Zaldívar mine, jointly controlled by Antofagasta and Barrick Gold, grew 9.4% to 17,400t.

El Abra (pictured), controlled by Freeport-McMoRan with a 51% stake and 49% owned by Codelco, saw production decline 31.8% to 13,100t. Output at BHP's Spence was up 25.7% to 32,800t but at its Cerro Colorado operation production was down 15.6% to 10,300t.

Teck Resources' Quebrada Blanca saw output fall 17.5% to 4,700t in January-February, while production at Glencore's Lomas Bayas mine rose 10.6% to 13,600t. Production at Mantos Copper's joint Mantoverde and Mantos Blancos mines was down 24.9% to 12,700t.


Chilean molybdenum production fell 10.1% year-on-year to 4,631t in February, Cochilco said in a separate report. Output for the first two months was down 10.8% to 10,021t.

Codelco's molybdenum output rose 2.8% to 4,679t in January-February, mainly because of 18.4% growth at its Chuquicamata-Radomiro Tomic complex, which offset declines at Andina and El Teniente.

Los Pelambres produced 1,280t, up 1.8% from January-February 2016. Collahuasi's molybdenum output fell 83.7% to 111t, while Anglo American Sur reported a 40.5% drop to 287.8t.

Combined production at the Caserones, Sierra Gorda and Valle Central operations was 2,580t in January-February, down 15.4%.


Chilean gold production fell 28.2% year-on-year to 2,624kg (84,364oz) in February, while silver output was 28.6% lower at 87,199kg, the state agency said separately.

Gold output for the first two months was down 20.9% to 5,593kg, while silver production fell 22.1% to 194,440kg from January-February 2016.