Chilean copper miner Antofagasta Plc (LON:ANTO) will make a decision about going ahead with a $3B expansion of its Centinela mine, located in the country’s north, by the end of next year or in 2021.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Copper Conference held this week in Santiago, chief executive Iván Arriagada said the company had recently decided to advance the studies on a second concentrator rather than expanding existing operations, Portal Minero reported.
“Following a detailed evaluation of the two options it was decided to progress the studies on a second concentrator, as the alternative has the best combination of financial returns and risk profile,” Arriagada said in March.
Production at Centinela, which began churning out copper in 2001 and has 49 years of mine life remaining, climbed by 8.6% in 2018 from the previous year to 248,000 tonnes. A new concentrator, a more expensive project than expanding the one currently in operation, will help Antofagasta produce an extra 180,000 tonnes of copper a year.
Arriagada noted the mine expansion still has to go to the board for approval, adding the company will only go ahead if it meets Antofagasta’s return criteria.
The plan is to expand mining activities to the Esperanza Sur and Encuentro pits, located immediately south of the one currently being exploited. The project would be implemented in two stages. First, the company will focus on feeding the new concentrator plant , as well as collecting and leaching of oxide ore. In the second phase it would start mining and processing ore from the two new pits.
The Centinela mining complex, located in Chile’s Antofagasta region, was created in 2014 from the merger of the Esperanza and El Tesoro mines. It produces copper concentrates containing gold and silver, using a milling and flotation process, and copper cathodes using a solvent extraction electrowinning process.
Last month, Antofagasta said it was moving forward with a feasibility study for the Twin Metals Minnesota project, a copper, nickel and platinum deposit.
It also declared a bumper dividend for 2018 on the back of record output and asset sales, which sent its shares soaring to a seven-month high.